July 22, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom is acting oblivious to the fact that his pick of Laphonza Butler to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the Senate is a controversial topic. Californians would like to know why, in a state of 38 million people with substantial populations of minorities and LGBTQ that he could not find a qualified candidate. It is well documented at this point that LaPhonz has kept a home in Silver Springs, Maryland for at least the past two years, and is registered to vote there. There’s even a publication where she was chosen as one of the most powerful women living in Washington, D.C.! 


You cannot make this stuff up. Yet, Newsom has declared LaPhonz as the best and only choice to fill Feinstein’s shoes. 

When Newsom stuck his foot in his mouth and declared he would appoint a Black woman to the Senate seat, invested parties like the Congressional Black Caucus weighed in on their choice of who they wanted to fill the seat, and it wasn’t LaPhonz.

Representative Ro Khanna was pushing hard for Barbara Lee, and was hopeful that Newsom would make her the choice… until he didn’t. 

As our Managing Editor Jen Van Laar explained, Lee’s umbrage over being referred to as a token placeholder soured Newsom on her potential appointment. Even if LaPhonz somehow doesn’t become the seat warmer, there’s not a snowballs chance in hell Newsom will give Lee second consideration.

Van Laar has recently reported that LaPhonz wrote a letter on behalf of disgraced fraudster former Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas requesting leniency. At the very least, this reflects that LaPhonz is a terrible judge of character. At the most, that she may have even deeper ties to other corruptocrats, not just Ridley-Thomas. Bottom line, Newsom should have considered other candidates who are actually qualified to hold a Senate seat and who at least reside in the state full time


 Instead, Newsom double-downed on this questionable choice. At a presser on Monday at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, Newsom took questions from reporters about LaPhonz and earned his other moniker of “Greasy Gavin” as he slithered past pointed questions without giving cogent answers, and waxed ineloquent about things that hardly mattered. KCRA captured most of the questioning.

One of the first questions centered around when he spoke with LaPhonz about the appointment. Newsom arrogantly hemmed and hawed about how he had to squeeze it into his busy schedule of governing while keeping things under wraps.

I’ll call you back. What does that mean? I don’t have a lot of time. Trying to act like I got nothing else to do the rest of the day and doing bill signings and vetoes, and, “Did you get a call? Did anyone call?” The phone rings, “Excuse me, give me a minute.” Come back out, she’s interested. Trying to keep it quiet, because all you guys want to talk about it, and speculate, that’s your job.  

Isn’t it special that he gets to tell the homegrown team that their journalistic curiosity is annoying? 

Another journalist asked about the pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus and whether that factored in the haste of his decision. 

I’ve had more people express an opinion about this than most things I’ve dealt with in my life. For over two years, and I’ll be honest with you, it kind of took me back. I didn’t like a lot of it, and I said that publicly, so this is not revelatory. I said I had too much respect for Dianne Feinstein, I didn’t like this narrative from the last couple of years, so everyone was offering advice and counsel I can assure you.

The next journalist asked when was the last time Newsom spoke with Senator Feinstein and what was discussed.


It was unfortunately too long ago, and that’s something I deeply regret. We tried on a number of occasions, I say “we” because my wife also wanted to sit down on her as well. Then was ecstatic that she made her way back to D.C. Up until a couple of days ago, I’d check in all the time. All. The. Time. There’s staff, my former staff, her staff, my former fire chief was one of her local staff. We’re always checking. “How’s she feeling? How’s she doing? How’s she feeling?” Up until 48 hours prior to her death people are like, “Oh, she’s doing great, she’s having a great week.”

 So, Newsom claimed that not only had Feinstein’s death taken him by surprise, but that he had made no plans on how he would replace her. 

Now pull the other leg.

It was the last thing on my mind. A complete shock. There was no decision made, there was nothing predetermined here, there’s no script here. This was not going to happen. That’s why I kind of push back on all this speculation, you know. And, with grace, you know, I walked into it as well, obviously, by saying I didn’t want to get in the middle of the primary, I understand that. So, it’s the right question.

A female journalist asked the $50,000 question: “Governor, was she your first choice or was there anybody else you asked?”

She’s the only choice. She’s outstanding. She’s The Best Choice, and I could not be more blessed that I was able to make it. 

The journalist pushed further: “You didn’t ask anybody else?” Newsom despises being questioned and hates being backed into a corner, so he put on his mantle of outrage and further defended his minute decision.

Come on, I am proud and honored to have so many extraordinarily qualified people that expressed interest in this job and I was able to engage them in conversations, period, full stop. And I could not be more proud of Laphonza’s interest, and her qualifications and her willingness to do this.


It was from this point forward that Newsom went off the rails. He could articulate nothing on what made LaPhonz more qualified than say, a doorpost. Instead, he made it all about him: his record of intersectional politics, how many African Americans he has appointed to powerful positions, and what a strong advocate he is for communities of color and LGBTQ.

You might want to grab a barf bag; I almost threw up in my mouth a few times. Another journalist asked, “Do you think this fulfills your promise to the Black community to appoint someone of color?”

I would assume it does on the basis of a lot of evidence. I mean… I don’t know. Two of my three Supreme Court justices have been African American, I couldn’t be more proud of that. We had an African American head of the CHP, one of the few law enforcement agencies in the country to lay claim to that. The most powerful woman in the state of California arguably is California Air Resources Board, African American. I mean, it’s a point of deep pride for me. My advocacy, my passion, in this space going back decades. That’s like in my DNA. You know how I grew up, being in foster family, and my relationship to the community, this was important to me. And that’s why I didn’t listen to all those fancy pundits who said, ‘It’s unbecoming, why would he say it publicly that he would appoint an African American.” 

Foster family? That’s a strange term to use for The Gettys.

Well, why? Because that’s what—representation matters, that’s why. And what are you suggesting, there’s not enough qualified people?  I’m more insulted by that. So, I thought it was the right thing to do. Everybody else is saying, “Well, he’s painting himself into a corner.” I find that a little offensive. I didn’t paint myself into a corner. Quite the contrary, I think we just provided ample evidence of one of the most extraordinary, outstanding, young leaders that is now representing—at least when she gets sworn in, stay tuned…


Almost as if he’s unsure whether he’ll get away with this debacle. When Newsom was asked how he responds to criticism over LaPhonz’ residency, he totally glossed over it.

She literally took that job at EMILYs List, still has a house out here, and re-registered. And we were transparent about that and put that forward, so I don’t know how I’d respond to it, I guess the response was in the announcement.

When Newsom was again asked about LaPhonz’s lack of experience in any elected position and why that wouldn’t be a cause of concern, Newsom went full whacko.

She has deep governmental experience. She understands how systems work. She has deep understanding of the legislative process, deep understanding of the executive process. Deep national experience not just state and local experience. She understands organizing from the bottom up not the top down. She understands moral authority, as I said, not just formal authority. She’s next-level qualified. And she also has perhaps the most important attribute and that’s the opportunity to go in without constraints, meaning, she doesn’t know what she’s not capable of, and I think that’s an incredible gift and I just want to reinforce that. 

This is absolute gobblygook. “Next-level qualified”? This coming from a man who has failed upward from one position to another. “She doesn’t know what she’s not capable of”? The American people know full well what LaPhonz with her Big Labor and abortion rights ties is capable of, and it’s not anything good. But Newsom continued working hard to polish that turd.

What I see often people that have been around a long, long time, they realize the constraints of office, and sometimes their expectations are lowered as a consequence. Her expectations are not lowered, she has a deep sense of idealism and optimism about what she can do and she understands the dialectic and I’m telling you this, perhaps this is the most important quality that I have seen with great leaders versus leaders and that is the ability to create a dynamic on the outside that moves the needle on the inside. Few people are as skilled as Laphonza Butler to understand that push pull between those on the outside and how to move things in terms of setting an agenda and actually accomplishing something. So, I think she’s in many ways more qualified than the vast majority of folks that are in a lot of elected office.


So, not only does Newsom slip into Marxist theory on leadership, but he insults his entire Democrat Supermajority, along with the other supposedly qualified people who are running for Senate in 2024. So on brand. A journalist got in a final question about Newsom appointing the first Black lesbian to Senate. Newsom “met the moment” with more preening and garbage thinking, including a dig at those evil right-wingers he had to rub shoulders with at the Republican debate in Simi Valley.

I’d be remiss. You may have read, some of you may know a little bit about my background in terms of my advocacy for the LGBTQ community. She happens to also be a member of the community. She’s lived with a different set of eyes and life experiences than the vast majority of us and she understands this moment deeply. 

What moment? Between the first female admiral Rachel Levine, the first gay Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, and the first gay Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the sheen of intersectional “firsts” has long since tarnished. And don’t get us started on nuclear non-binary Sam “luggage thief” Brinton. Nobody cares. 

I’ve talked about the difference between daylight and darkness being at an SEIU event with $20 minimum wage for fast food workers the day after being in the spin room with some of you in the RNC. What the right is doing to roll back rights. What the right is doing to try to bring America back to the pre-1960s world. The assaults on the LGBTQ community, the assault on the African American community, criminalizing speech, and books, and travel, this cultural purge that’s going on in this country, all of those things matter and all of that reinforces why, again, I think Laphonza Butler is uniquely positioned, simply the best person that I could find for this moment and this job.

The only difference between daylight and darkness is the space between Newsom’s ears.


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