Oct 3, 2023 - News

5 things to know about California's new U.S. senator

A Black woman in a navy suit stands at a podium smiling with American flags on stage behind her.

Laphonza Butler speaks at a Biden-Harris campaign rally in June. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Laphonza Butler is set to become California's newest senator, filling the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein's vacant seat through 2024.

Driving the news: Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler over the weekend and she was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Here are five things you should know about California's new senator:

1. Butler, 44, makes history with a series of firsts.

  • She will be the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress, California's first openly LGBTQ U.S. senator and the first openly LGBTQ person of color to serve in the U.S. Senate.
  • She'll be the first and only Black woman in the U.S. Senate since Harris stepped down in 2021 to become vice president.

2. Butler has not held elective political office but is a political strategist and fundraiser.

  • She's a longtime senior adviser to Harris and ran political campaigns for the now-VP and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • Once sworn in, she'll step down from her role as president of Emily's List, a national PAC that backs pro-choice Democratic women in politics.

3. She's a mom and former labor leader.

  • For more than a decade, Butler served as president of the largest labor union in California, SEIU Local 2015, which represents nursing home and home-care workers.

4. Butler lives in Maryland.

  • Yes, but: She's a former California resident and owns a home here.
  • Butler will re-register to vote in California before being sworn in, according to Newsom's office.

5. Butler has not yet said whether she will run for a full term in 2024, but she could.

  • Newsom previously stated his appointment would be an interim role, and not someone in the running to succeed Feinstein.
  • But, but, but: Candidates have until Dec. 8 to file paperwork for the race, per AP.

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