July 15, 2024

In the wake of the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Governor Gavin Newsom has chosen her replaced to fill in the seat until the next election cycle.

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POLITICO first reported on Sunday evening that EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler has been selected to take the job.

Newsom’s selection of Butler comes at a moment of immense change in California’s political establishment, with millions of people still mourning the death of Feinstein, the barrier-breaking Senate lioness. Meanwhile the California governor, who was mentored by Feinstein, has been grappling with his own personal grief and the political ramifications of his choice to succeed her.

The people who spoke with POLITICO ahead of the announcement were granted anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Butler is registered to vote in Maryland but will switch her registration to California.

Newsom faced considerable pressure around the decision after first pledging to name a Black woman to the seat. Several potential nominees said publicly they were not interested. Some others privately expressed trepidation about accepting a short-term appointment and then having to immediately gear up for what would be a five-month campaign.

It appears that Newsom made the quick decision in order to stave off mounting campaigns from allies and politicians seeking to convince him to put their preferred candidates in. Newsom had previously stated he would be picking someone to “babysit” the seat until the next election cycle.

However, he may have been too quick in his decision – records indicate Butler has not lived in the state for two years.

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It is unclear if Butler would run for the seat in the 2024 election cycle. Other candidates, such as Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter had previously announced their intention to, as had Rep. Barbara Lee.

There had been speculation that Feinstein was holding on to her seat to allow Schiff, who was handpicked by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take the job, to run and take over. However, Feinstein’s death, coupled with Newsom’s previous vow to fill the empty seat with a Black woman, have complicated matters.

If Butler (after changing her residence to California) were to run, she would have an incumbency advantage that often makes it difficult for challengers to break through.

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