California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler to fill the US Senate seat left vacant after Sen. Dianne Feinstein died last Thursday, a spokesperson for the governor said Sunday.
The selection means Newsom will follow through on his past pledge to select a black woman for Feinstein’s seat if it became open.
Butler would be the only black woman in the US Senate.
Butler, who leads a political organization that backs female candidates who support abortion rights, is also a former advisor to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign.
She served as a labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful union that represents more than 400,000 long-term care workers in California, as well — though she has never held elected office.
She would be the Golden State’s first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the chamber.
Newsom had faced growing pressure from activists and black lawmakers to pick Rep. Barbara Lee for the seat.
The well-known black congresswoman is already campaigning for the seat against others like Rep. Katie Porter and Rep. Adam Schiff.
Another name that was mentioned as potentially vying for the seat — though the chances of her appointment were slim — was Meghan Markle.
Within minutes of Feinstein’s death, phones “lit up” with speculation that the Duchess of Sussex might look to be appointed to fill the seat until Feinstein’s term expires in January 2025, sources told the Daily Mail.
Newsom previously said he did not want to appoint someone running for the office in 2024 because it would give them an unfair advantage in the highly contested race.
But a spokesperson for Newsom said the governor didn’t ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race.
Candidates must file paperwork to run for the seat by Dec. 8.
Butler called Feinstein “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country” following her death at age 90.
Feinstein was elected to the Senate in 1992, though she faced pressure to step down recently after a series of health problems.
Before her death, Feinstein said she would not run for reelection next year.
Newsom previously picked California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve in the Senate after Kamala Harris was elected vice president along with President Biden in 2020.
With Post wires