Laphonza Butler Will Become the First-Ever Black Lesbian to Serve in Congress

washington, dc june 23 emilys list president laphonza butler address a biden harris campaign rally on the first anniversary of the supreme courts dobbs v jackson decision which struck down a federal right to abortion at the mayflower hotel on june 23, 2023 in washington, dc the campaign event was organized by naral pro choice america, planned parenthood action fund and emilys list photo by chip somodevillagetty images
Laphonza Butler Will Fill Feinstein’s Senate SeatChip Somodevilla - Getty Images

Laphonza Butler, president of political action committee Emily’s List, will be Congress’s first-ever Black lesbian senator.

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom tapped Butler to fill the Senate seat that was left empty with the death of Dianne Feinstein on Friday, Politico reported. Her appointment marks a historic first for Congress, with Butler becoming the sole Black woman currently serving and the third-ever Black woman to serve in the Senate. She will also be the first openly LGBTQ+ Black woman to work in Congress.

“I’m honored to accept Gov. @GavinNewsom’s nomination to be U.S. Senator for a state I have made my home and honored by his trust in me to serve the people of California and this great nation,” Butler said in a statement released to X. “No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California. I am ready to serve.”

Butler has served as president of Emily’s List, an organization that supports the elections of pro-choice Democratic women, since 2021.

She previously worked as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America for Airbnb, a strategist and partner at political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, and a senior advisor for Vice President Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign. She also has a long and involved history with the labor movement, having served as the president of home-care workers union SEIU Local 2015 for more than a decade.

raleigh, nc may 17 laphonza butler, president of emilys list, introduces senate candidate cheri beasley during the north carolina democratic partys election night party at the dock at seabord station in raleigh, nc, may 17, 2022 the first black woman to serve as chief justice of the north carolina supreme court, cheri beasley is now vying for another first north carolinas first black senator the associated press called the race for beasley early in the night and she will face off in november against republican nominee ted budd photo by eamon queeney for the washington post via getty images
The Washington Post - Getty Images

Other high-profile California Democrats had put their name in the ring to succeed Feinstein, who was the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history prior to her passing at 90 years old. These include Representative Adam Schiff, Representative Katie Porter, and Representative Barbara Lee.

CNN reports that Newsom had previously promised to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein, who announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection, were to resign from her seat earlier than planned. Many had hoped the governor would select Lee, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as Feinstein’s replacement. However, Newsom opted to not choose any of the candidates participating in the 2024 Senate election, so as not to give any particular candidate an advantage over others ahead of time. Butler herself may choose to run for office next year, too.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for—reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence—have never been under greater assault,” Newsom said in a statement on X today. “Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”

He concluded, “I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington.”

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