California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced he is appointing EMILY List President Laphonza Butler to finish the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term in the Senate, fulfilling his promise to fill the vacancy with a Black woman.
The quick appointment (D) was crucial to Democrats’ power in the Senate, where they hold a narrow 50-49 majority following Feinstein’s death at age 90.
Butler’s appointment will last until January 2025, when Feinstein’s sixth term in the chamber is set to end. It will then be up to voters to elect a permanent senator for the next six-year term.
The race for Feinstein’s seat was well underway at the time of her death. Three Democrats who represent California in the House of Representatives had launched campaigns: Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. While Newsom made good on his promise to appoint a Black woman by choosing Butler, he said in September he would not nominate anyone to hold the seat permanently.
“I don’t want to take part in the primary election” Newsom told NBC News. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats who made the effort.”
“The idea that a Black woman should be appointed as a caregiver simply to check a box is an insult to countless Black women across this country who have led the Democratic Party to victory election after election,” Lee said said on X after Newsom’s comments.
There are currently no Black women elected to the Senate. Before Newsom’s nomination, Senators Carol Moseley Braun and Kamala Harris were the only people to ever serve in the Senate.
This is the second time Newsom has been allowed to nominate a senator. When then-California Sen. Harris won the vice presidency in 2020, the governor nominated the current senator. Alex Padilla is supposed to replace her. Newsom faced some criticism for choosing Padilla, a first-generation Mexican American, to replace the only Black woman in Congress.