The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Newsom fulfills pledge with Butler appointment in Senate

Photo via Flickr.

Laphonza Butler was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom this past Monday, following the recent passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) at the age of 90.

The vacancy left by Feinstein, a Democrat, presented an opportunity for new representation in the U.S. Senate, a role now relegated to Butler, also a Democrat.

“She’s a well-known person in California Democratic politics, but not one of the key contenders in the upcoming primary for the seat. It’s too early to tell if this could affect the race, but the stated purpose was to avoid doing so,” Julia Azari, political science professor, said.

Butler is the president of Emily’s List, political action committee that aims to help elect Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights to public office in the United States, and a former labor union leader. Although Butler has not previously held an elected political position, she has been deeply involved in California politics and served an advisory role to Vice President Kamala Harris during her 2020 presidential campaign.

Butler will be sworn into the Senate today and will serve out the rest of Feinstein’s term until January 2025.

The filling of the seat was crucial for Democrats due to their slim majority. Before Feinstein’s death, Democrats had a 51-49 majority, with 48 seats and three independent members who caucused with the Democrats. At this time there is no key legislation up for vote that will fall between party lines.

Democrats must work with their slim majority to fill judicial appointments — a key goal of Senate Democrats and President Joe Biden during this term. If there ends up being a 50-50 vote on judicial appointments or certain legislation, Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote.

“I would expect Butler to be a team player in the Senate and not to pull any Manchin or Sinema-like moves. She looks like a pretty standard Democrat from California — solid socially progressive credentials, but some corporate affiliations,” Azari said.

Calls for Feinstein’s resignation emerged earlier this year because she was sick and not able to attend Congress meetings. Her absence meant that some decisions, particularly on the Senate Judiciary Committee about appointing federal judges, were delayed. Democrats were left with a 50-49 majority, until Newsom’s appointment of Butler this past Monday.

According to California law, if a senator passes, then the governor must appoint an individual to fill the vacancy. In the past, Newsom pledged, if the situation emerged, he would appoint a Black woman to the seat. Newsom said he will not select any individual who is currently entered in the 2024 California Senate race, which he did with the appointment of Butler.

In addition, prior to her passing, Feinstein had announced she will vacate her seat upon her retirement. There is currently a heavily contested primary race in the state.

The primary race, consisting of front runners Representative Katie Porter (D-CA), Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), Representative Barbra Lee (D-CA) and Republican Eric Early, is set to be one of the most expensive primary races — with Porter and Schiff each raising over $15 million last quarter for their campaign.

Butler is able to run in the primary election, which has a deadline to enter Mar. 5, 2024. However, she has not indicated whether she will run for the race just yet.

The two individuals with the highest vote share in the primary will go on to the general election, with Porter taking the lead in many polls. Major prediction outlets such as The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have called the seat a solid seat for Democrats.

This story was written by Uzair Qhavi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @uzairqhavii. 

Story continues below advertisement
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Uzair Qhavi
Uzair Qhavi, Assistant News Editor
Uzair Qhavi is an assistant news editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 year. He is a senior from Franklin, WI studying political science. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies and binging television shows. This year Uzair is excited to work on in-depth projects and have a fun start to his last year at the Wire.

Comments (0)

All Marquette Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *