Butler Pick Draws Praise, Mounting Speculation Over 2024 Plans


Laphonza Butler speaks at the EMILYs List 2023 Pre-Oscars Breakfast held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on March 7, 2023.

Araya Doheny/Getty Images Emily’s List

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Araya Doheny/Getty Images Emily’s List

Laphonza speaks at the EMILYs List 2023 Pre-Oscars breakfast held on March 7, 2023 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Araya Doheny/Getty Images Emily’s List

California Gov. Butler, a Democratic advisor and labor leader, will be sworn into office as a U.S. Senator by Vice President Kamala at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. She has extensive experience as the leader of one California’s largest and most powerful unions, and was a campaign advisor for Harris. Her pursuit of a full Senate term could scramble an already crowded field vying for the Senate seat.

Asked Tuesday if it would be good for the state if Butler decided to run, Newsom said “she’ll make that decision,” and reiterated that he placed “no constraints, no expectations” on Butler’s future plans.

“I wouldn’t have appointed someone I didn’t respect and admire, someone I couldn’t back up and vouch for,” Newsom added.

In response to a question about her potential candidacy, Matt Wing, a spokesperson for Butler, said she was focused on honoring the legacy of Feinstein and preparing to take office.

“Politics can wait,” he added.

A crowded primary race faces a new disruption

But the window to jump into the Senate race is narrowing. The window to jump into the Senate race is closing. Butler would have to quickly stand up a campaign to compete with a primary field that includes Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff.

Butler’s candidacy could especially complicate the path forward for Lee, who has trailed Schiff and Porter in early polling and fundraising. Many Lee supporters who pushed Newsom to fulfill his promise of appointing a Black woman by tapping the East Bay progressive were nonetheless pleased with the governor’s selection of Butler, who would also make history as the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the Senate.

“Gavin did take us seriously… and now we’re in this position of having this really, really, really dope leader,” said Molly Watson, deputy director for the California Donor Table, a network of progressive donors which has endorsed Lee.

Lee told KQED she spoke with Butler and wished her well.

“But what I’m doing is being singularly focused like I have been on winning my campaign for the Senate,” Lee said.

Labor leaders cheered the appointment of Butler, who led the push to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour as a leader of SEIU 2015, a union representing long-term care workers.

“She understood the plight of low-wage workers,” said Carmen Roberts, the union’s current executive vice president. “She was a good listener and had a voice. She used this voice to convey the values that were important to care workers to the governor. “

SEIU has yet to endorse a candidate for Senate, and Roberts did not want to speculate about Butler’s political future.

“But I would be excited if she was one of the candidates,” she added.

Bicoastal roots raises residency questions

Criticism of Butler focused in part on her residency in Maryland. She moved to the East Coast to lead Emily’s List but still owns a house in California.

California Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher dubbed Butler “Maryland’s 3rd US Senator,” in a statement, adding “Out of 40 million California residents, Gavin Newsom seriously couldn’t find one to serve in the Senate? “

Other Republicans acknowledged that Butler’s residency wasn’t the only reason for their displeasure at Newsom’s pick.

“Of course it gives me concern, but I think any appointment that he would have made, because I share a different perspective than he does politically, I would have had concern,” said Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale, Calif.

From a legal perspective, to represent the state, Butler must establish that California is her domicile – and being registered to vote here is a key part of that, said Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.

“The Constitution talks about being an inhabitant when you are elected. “The Constitution talks about being an inhabitant when you are elected.” “So if Gov. Newsom should make the official appointment after Butler has changed her voter registration. “

On Sunday, Newsom announced that Butler had registered to vote in California before her oath of office.