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‘She is the best choice': Laphonza Butler to make history as incoming Calif. senator

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday recalled a tense moment he shared on the campaign trail with union leader Laphonza Butler.

“I remember being grilled by Laphonza on my vision for long-term care and it changed me a little bit,” Newsom said to reporters in San Francisco. 

Laphonza, a 44-year-old Democratic strategist and ally to Vice President Kamala Harris, is now the governor’s choice to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The appointment makes good on Newsom’s long-held promise of sending a Black woman to the U.S. Senate. 

“She is the best choice and I could not be more blessed,” Newsom said. “It’s a point of deep pride for me.” 

A graduate of Mississippi’s Jackson State University, Butler made an impression on political science professor Dr. Mary Coleman. 

“Most of my students during those days wanted to go to law school – she didn’t,” Coleman said. “She wanted to get out in the real world and see what she could do that would be useful – that’s what I most remember about her.” 

Butler came to California in 2009 as a labor organizer for in-home caregivers and nurses, and served as president of SEIU Local 2015.

In 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Butler to a 12-year term on the UC Board of Regents, where she served three years. She made the move to the nation’s capital in 2021 as the first Black woman to lead EMILY’S List – a political action committee dedicated to electing progressive women to public office.

A staunch supporter of abortion rights, Butler’s politics appear to be further left than the woman she will replace.

“Since the dawn of the patriarchy, women have had their power stolen,” Butler said in a speech four months ago. “Time and again we have been told what we can and cannot do. Our bodies belong to us and our freedoms are not open to debate.” 

The soon-to-be senator currently lives in Maryland but will need to re-register in California quickly and make the home she kept in Los Angeles her permanent residence. 

On the platform “X”, Lafonza said she was “honored” to have been selected to represent the state she very soon will call home. 

“No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California,” Butler said. 

The incoming senator will blaze a trail as the first openly LGBTQ person and the second Black woman to represent the Golden State in the Senate.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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