October 5, 2023

Laphonza Butler

“California Governor Gavin Newsom said he had picked Laphonza Butler to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Dianne Feinstein, who died [last] Thursday at age 90… Butler had been serving as president of EMILY's List, an organization that works to elect to office Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights… Butler has also worked as a senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and was the president of the largest labor union in California…

“The appointment would make her the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the Senate, according to Newsom. Butler - who would also become the only Black woman in the Senate and only the third in U.S. history - will serve through the end of Feinstein's six-year term in January 2025…

“Feinstein in February said she would not seek reelection, and contenders began lining up for her seat. Liberal U.S. Representative Barbara Lee is running for the seat in 2024, as are other prominent Democrats, including U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Newsom had said he would not pick one of the candidates running for the seat in 2024.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is disappointed that Rep. Barbara Lee was not chosen, and argues that Democrats should help more Black female candidates get elected.

“The governor signaled that, while he was committed to naming a woman of color, he didn’t want to give Lee the advantage of appointed incumbency. This was a new standard, developed by Newsom since his last appointment of a senator in 2021, when he chose Alex Padilla to replace newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris. As an appointed incumbent, Padilla ran for and easily won a full term in 2022…

“Instead of being rewarded for invariably standing on the right side of history, members of Congress like Lee are frequently dismissed by political and media elites as perhaps just a bit too pure—or, more likely, too unsettling to the defenders of status-quo politics. So Newsom found a way to pass Lee over…

“Lee’s willingness to upset the status quo has never made it easy for her. She’s rarely had the inside track or enjoyed the favor of the powerful. She’s been forced to make her own way. This persistence and vision recommend her as exactly what’s needed in a Senate where a track record of speaking truth to power should be the highest qualification.”

John Nichols, The Nation

“Through August, more than 300,000 laborers have gone on strike across the country, affecting a wide variety of industries… In this environment, Newsom sent the former president of the largest union in his state to the Senate. Feels like a statement. But because he had previously promised to send a Black woman to temporarily fill that role, her race and gender make the statement that’s getting the most attention

“Black women have never needed an electoral quid pro quo — a ‘vote for me and I’ll appoint one’ sort of thing. ‘Fighting Shirley’ Chisholm went from the first Black woman elected into Congress in 1968 to running for president in 1972, winning 10% of the vote in the primary. This despite little money and a lot of hostility from her own party…

“The cynic in me wonders how many more times Democrats can promise to appoint Black women before it all becomes white noise. Because let’s get real: The party could seriously back Black female candidates and make history across the nation. Or white male candidates could keep talking about ‘making history’ while they dangle pledges about Black women.”

LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right is critical of Butler, arguing that Newsom should have picked someone actually residing in California.

The right is critical of Butler, arguing that Newsom should have picked someone actually residing in California.

“Butler, California's newest senator-designate, only spent about a decade in total living in the state. Born and raised in Mississippi, Butler moved to California in 2009 as a labor organizer, eventually leading the state's Service Employees International Union, its largest labor union… Butler decamped California to become the president of the pro-abortion political organization known as EMILY's List in 2021 and has been listing her address as Silver Spring, Maryland, ever since…

Forgoing the nearly 40 million people living in California, Newsom went to Maryland to make a Mississippi-born union organizer a 1-in-100 member of the world's greatest deliberative body… Just as Biden boxed himself into the mandate of choosing Harris as his running mate, Newsom didn't have many options once he promised at the altar of identity politics to pick a black woman to replace Feinstein… Black women comprise less than 3% of the Golden State's population and a similar share of its state legislature.”

Tiana Lowe Doescher, Washington Examiner

“During Dr. Mehmet Oz's 2022 Senate campaign in Pennsylvania, the Republican nominee's supposed lack of local roots was a headline-making scandal. But according to the mainstream media, it's totally fine that Laphonza Butler, a Democratic fundraiser from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., was appointed over the weekend to fill Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat in California.”

Drew Holden, Washington Free Beacon

“As far as Newsom’s own priorities — not those of conservatives or of Californians — are concerned, it was a pretty sharp move. Butler is intended as a ‘caretaker’ who will not run again, a matter of grave importance to Representatives Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, both of whom have been planning what will likely be bruising campaigns for the seat…

“And in the eternal identity wars of California Democratic politics, Newsom — a straight white male whose ideological credentials, as hard as it is for conservatives to believe, arouse suspicions among those in his party’s left wing — can tell angry factions that he just appointed a black female lesbian abortion lobbyist (checking four boxes at once!) to replace the comparatively and thus intolerably ‘conservative’ Dianne Feinstein.”

Jeffrey Blehar, National Review

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