Butler, 44, who is president of Emily’s List, is expected to be sworn in this week. She will be the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate.
Her appointment is through the end of next year, and she is not among the candidates, as of yet, in the race to succeed her. Feinstein had announced earlier this year that she was not running for a new term, but the anticipation of an open seat saw Katie Porter and Adam Schiff jump into the race before then, with Barbara Lee joining later.
Newsom said that Butler “has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”
He added, “I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings and fight for all Californians in Washington.”
Newsom’s appointment fulfills his pledge to name a Black woman to the seat, and while he had indicated that he make an “interim appointment,” he came under criticism for the idea that his selection would be a caretaker who would not seek election to the seat. There was such no requirement, according to Newsom’s spokesman, but the governor did not choose Lee, the only Black woman in the Senate race, as he had said he did not want to get involved in the primary.
An issue that quickly arose with Butler’s appointment was her residency. She listed Maryland on her Twitter bio. She previously lived in California and served as president of SEIU Long Term Care Workers. She was appointed a regent of the University of California in 2018, and later advised Kamala Harris on her 2020 presidential run. She joined Emily’s List in 2018.
Her appointment also could add a new dynamic to the Senate race if she decides to run.
Feinstein died Friday at the age of 90 after serving more than 30 years in the Senate.
Newsom’s appointment of a former top union official — with continued strong ties to labor — comes after he came under criticism for vetoing a bill that would have made striking workers eligible for unemployment benefits.
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