3rd October, 2023
Laphonza Butler, nominated by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Dianne Feinstein, will become the only Black woman in the Senate and only the third in U.S. history.
Newsom nominated her to replace Feintein who died on Thursday at age 90, preserving the Democrats’ majority in the chamber.
The 44 year-old will serve through the end of Feinstein’s six-year term in January 2025.
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.
She became the organisation’s third president in 2021. She was the first black woman and the first mother to lead it.
The appointment would make her the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the Senate, according to Newsom.
She and her partner, Neneki Lee, have a daughter and were living together in Maryland, before the appointment. She had since relocated to California to register as a voter.
Her appointment comes as her fellow Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, including three independents who vote with them, and amid uncertainty about the future of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who has been indicted on corruption charges.
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, representing more than 325,000 nursing home and home-care workers throughout the state.
“Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people,” Newsom, a leading Democrat, said in a social media post on Sunday.
She was born in Magnolia, Mississippi, the youngest of three children.
Her father died of heart disease when she was 16 years old. She attended South Pike High School in Magnolia and Jackson State University.