California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to appoint Laphonza Butler, the president of Emily’s List and a former labor leader, on Monday to fill the Senate vacancy left by the death of Dianne Feinstein, multiple sources familiar with the decision confirmed Sunday night.
Ms. Butler, 44, has been a fixture in California politics for nearly 15 years as a former head of the state’s largest labor union and an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris. In 2021, she became the first Black woman to take the helm at Emily’s List, the fundraising center dedicated to electing female candidates and reproductive rights supporters.
The appointment would come four days after Senator Feinstein’s death at age 90 on Thursday in Washington, DC. The senator’s body was flown back to San Francisco over the weekend, where a memorial service is planned for Thursday.
Ms. Butler, whose appointment was first reported by Politico, could not immediately be reached for comment.
In choosing Ms. Butler, Governor Newsom kept his promise made more than two years ago to appoint a Black woman to the Senate should a vacancy arise.
But at the time of Ms. Feinstein’s death, three senior Democratic congressmen had already entered the race to succeed her in 2024. Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee have been campaigning statewide in California for months.
Mr. Newsom, who is also a Democrat, told NBC News last month that he preferred not to influence next year’s primaries by giving one candidate an advantage. Instead, he said, he would seek an interim replacement.
His statement was met with resistance from political allies of Ms. Lee, 77, who is black and wants to remain in office long-term. But she currently trails the other two candidates in fundraising and polling.
As speculation mounted over the weekend about the governor’s pick, members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the governor “strongly supporting Congresswoman Barbara Lee for this appointment.” Advocacy groups also pushed for Ms. Lee.
“Barbara Lee and black women are not mere caregivers, but the electoral and organizing center of the national Democratic Party,” said Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, an organization that helps elect women of color into politics, in a statement. The governor, she added, should use the full force of his political influence “to ensure that Black women have long-term representation in California and every state.”
While Gov. Newsom last month viewed the appointment as a temporary assignment and said he did not want to interfere in the primary, his chief spokesman, Anthony York, indicated on Sunday that the governor would not demand that his candidate be removed from the 2024 Senate race.
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That leaves open the possibility that Ms. Butler — a prolific fundraiser at Emily’s List — could still run in the primary for the permanent Senate seat.
Ms. Butler would be the first openly LGBTQ senator to represent California. Scott Wiener, a Democratic senator, celebrated the appointment Sunday evening.
“LGBTQ people are currently being brutally attacked in the United States, and the addition of a black lesbian to the U.S. Senate is a powerful statement,” said Mr. Wiener, a San Francisco gay leader who supports legislation protecting LGBTQ rights has used.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Shane Goldmacher, Heather Knight and Reid J. Epstein contributed reporting.