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Laphonza Butler, Newsom's Feinstein replacement, to make LGBT history

Gov. Newsom picks Laphonza Butler to replace Feinstein in Senate
Gov. Newsom picks Laphonza Butler to replace Feinstein in Senate 01:43

SAN FRANCISCO -- The woman chosen by Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace late Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress in history and the first openly LGBT senator from California, his office said Sunday night.

Laphonza Butler has been selected to complete Feinstein's term, who died Friday at the age of 90 after serving in the US Senate from 1992 until her death.

Laphonza Butler
Laphonza Butler addresed a Biden-Harris campaign rally June 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Butler is the president of the political action committee Emily's List, which works to elect Democratic women. Once appointed senator, she will step down from that roll, Newsom's office said. She was also a longtime senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as a labor leader.

"An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted advisor to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California," said Newsom in a statement.

UPDATE: Laphonza Butler sworn in to replace late California Sen. Feinstein, third Black female senator in US history

Newsom said that Butler will champion the same issues that Feinstein took on, such as reproductive freedom, equal protection under the law, and gun violence.

According to the governor's office, Butler hails from a working-class family and her father died when she was a teenager. Her mother became the sole provider for the household and worked as a classroom aide, a home care provider, a security guard and a bookkeeper to support Butler and her two siblings.

In addition to Vice President Harris, Butler has led strategy efforts for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was also president of California's largest labor union, SEIU Local 2015, a union representing nursing home and home-care workers.

In Los Angeles, Butler was the former director of the Board of Governors of the LA branch of the Federal Reserve System. Former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the University of California Board of Regents in 2018 and she served until 2021.

Butler was also named a "Champion of Change" by President Barack Obama.

She has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Jackson State University and shares a home with her wife Neneki and their daughter Nylah.

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