California Governor Gavin Newsom‘s pick to replace recently deceased Democratic senator Diane Feinstein has raised eyebrows after it emerged that she resided with her family in Maryland until recently.
Late on Sunday night, his office announced he had chosen Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List, which works to elect women in favor of abortion to public office, to fulfill the remainder of the late senator’s term. Feinstein died, aged 90, on Thursday following a period of ill health.
“A trusted adviser to [Vice President Kamala] Harris and leader of the nation’s largest organization dedicated to electing women, Butler will make history as the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress,” Newsom’s office said.
California law permits the governor to appoint a senator until the next election, due to take place in 2024. Butler previously worked in California on the presidential campaigns of Harris and Hillary Clinton.
However, questions have been raised over the choice after mention of Butler’s residence in Maryland was scrubbed from her biography on the EMILY’s List website. Archives of the site show it was still mentioned as recently as September 14, but now appears to have been deleted.
Newsweek approached Newsom’s office and Butler through EMILY’s List via email for comment on Monday.
Rob Pyers, research director of the California Target Book, which analyzes political finance filings, noted Butler had given her residence in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings as recently as August 31.
Governor @GavinNewsom has selected Laphonza Butler to complete Senator Feinstein’s term.
A trusted adviser to @VP Harris and leader of the nation’s largest organization dedicated to electing women, Butler will make history as the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress. pic.twitter.com/NTPcK2Wtve
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) October 2, 2023
Lists of her contributions recorded by the FEC and the California Fair Political Practices Commission, shared by Pyers, suggest she has been living in Maryland since September 2021. Prior to that, she gave addresses in View Park, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Ashley Zavala, a correspondent for the California-based KCRA news channel, wrote shortly before the official announcement: “Newsom’s office confirms she moved to [the] D.C. area for EMILY’s list, but is a CA homeowner and will reregister to vote in California before being sworn in.”
Social media users appeared split over what some said as a case of “carpetbagging,” an accusation of campaigning for election in an area where the candidate has no ties.
“Owning a home and residency are two different things,” wrote one X, formerly Twitter, user, while another described the news as “not okay.” However, others portrayed it as a “non-story” and credited Newsom for being “honest and unapologetic.”
Butler’s ascension to the Senate could also upturn the Democratic race for the seat in 2024. While Politico, which originally broke the news, cited Newsom’s office as saying the pick did not put limitations or preconditions on who he thought should run, the decision will make Butler the incumbent and likely key contender if she chooses to stand for a full term.
Among the California Democratic names to have launched campaigns for the seat when Feinstein announced her intention not to run for another term in February are Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.
Just hours before the appointment of Butler was announced, the Congressional Black Caucus had written to Newsom urging him to appoint Lee.
The post Laphonza Butler’s Non-California Residence Raises Questions appeared first on Newsweek.