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News > U.S.

Laphonza Butler To Represent California in the Senate

  • Laphonza Butler, 2023.

    Laphonza Butler, 2023. | Photo: X/ @scottshafer

Published 2 October 2023

The EMILYs List leader and African American lesbian activist will replace Senator Feinstein.

On Monday, California Governor, the Democrat Gavin Newsom, announced the selection of Laphonza Butler, an African American lesbian who has served as an advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris, as the replacement in the Senate for the late Senator Dianne Feinstein.


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"Butler will make history as California's first openly LGBTQ senator and the first openly black lesbian to serve in Congress in the history of the United States," the Governor's office stated.

At 44 years old, Butler will also be the second black woman to represent California in the Senate, following in the footsteps of Harris, and she will hold the seat until 2024, filling the vacancy left by Feinstein, who passed away last week at the age of 90.

California's leading politician is the president of EMILY's List, the nation's largest organization dedicated to advancing the political careers of pro-choice Democratic women. She has also been a labor leader and an advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris.

"Laphonza will carry on the legacy left by Senator Feinstein and continue to break glass ceilings, fighting for all Californians in Washington," noted Newsom, who pledged to champion the "same freedoms" that the late senator fought for: "reproductive rights, equal protection, and safety from gun violence."

Butler comes from a working-class family. Her father, a small business owner, was diagnosed with a terminal illness and passed away when she was 16 years old. Her mother supported the family and worked as a classroom assistant, home care provider, security guard, and accountant to provide for Butler and her two siblings.

She holds a degree in political science from Jackson State University and is married to her wife, Neneki, with whom she has a daughter.

Senator Dianne Feinstein was the most senior member of the Upper House and passed away while still in office, after serving for 31 years in the Senate.

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