Laphonza Butler Sworn into U.S. Senate, fills seat of late Dianne Feinstein

Laphonza Butler was sworn into the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, October 3, 2023.

Compiled – The swearing-in comes days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom tapped Butler, the former president of the Democratic PAC Emily’s List, to fill the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat until the state can elect a replacement next year. Butler was sworn in on the Senate floor by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Although a prominent figure in California politics for more than a decade, Butler has never served in elected office. Butler’s appointment, however, is historic, as she will be the third black woman to serve in the Senate and the first openly LGBTQ person of color to represent California to serve in the upper chamber of Congress.

Also, her appointment does fill two promises made by Newsom in response to concerns about Feinstein’s declining health, and her decision earlier this year to retire at the end of her term: that he would appoint a Black woman to an open seat, and that said appointment would not “tip the balance” of the California’s 2024 Senate race.

Butler attended Jackson State from 1997-2001 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government. Upon finishing her matriculation at Jackson State, she worked in several capacities including leading SEIU Local 2015, the largest union in California, as well as a member of the University of California Board of Regents and the Director of Public Policy and Campaigns in North America for Airbnb.

She is also a longtime ally of Howard University alumna and United States Vice President Kamala Harris. She served as an advisor on Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign. She has served as President of EMILY’s List, an American political action committee is dedicated to supporting the election of Democratic female candidates who advocate for abortion rights to public office, since 2021.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Butler genuinely has “no idea” if she’ll run to keep the seat in 2024. “I want to be focused on honoring the legacy of Sen. Feinstein. I want to devote my time and energy to serving the people of California. And I want to carry her baton with the honor that it deserves and so I genuinely have no idea,” she said. Should Butler choose to throw her hat into the race, she would be running against three high-profile members of Congress who’ve already declared their candidacy and have been raising money for months: California Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. (RollingStone/Nikki McCann Ramirez; ClutchPoints/ Randall Barnes)