California Governor Gavin Newsom has made good on his promise to appoint a black woman to fill the vacant Senate seat left by the late Dianne Feinstein. However, it’s not just any black woman; it’s Laphonza Butler, a black lesbian woman, and according to Newsom, she’s set to make history.
While Butler does bring other qualifications to the table, such as her extensive involvement in California politics over nearly 15 years and her former leadership of the state’s largest labor union, it’s her identity that Newsom seems to emphasize the most. She also served as an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris and took the helm at Emily’s List, a fundraising organization supporting female candidates and reproductive rights.
Newsom’s announcement, made on X, proudly states, “She will make history — becoming the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate.” He goes on to praise her advocacy for women and working people.
One notable detail is that Butler doesn’t reside in the state she will be representing. She lives in Maryland with her partner and their daughter, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This fact hasn’t escaped criticism, with some questioning why a non-resident was chosen to represent California.
Critics argue that Newsom’s decision appears driven by a need to virtue signal and adhere to identity politics rather than selecting the most qualified candidate. They suggest that such an approach may not address the root issues of discrimination and may even perpetuate it.
California Governor Gavin Newsom made the following statement on X/Twitter:
I’m proud to announce California’s new United States Senator — Laphonza Butler. As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault.
Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people. She will make history — becoming the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate.
From her time as President of EMILY’s List to leading the state’s largest labor union, she has always stood up for what is right and has led with her heart and her values.
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.