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A Black woman, Laphonza Butler, has been named by California Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the Senate seat after Senator Dianne Feinstein’s death last week.

On Sunday evening (Oct. 1), California Governor Gavin Newsom chose Laphonza Butler, the president of EMILY’s List to take over the seat in the Senate after the passing of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein last Thursday. The appointment makes Butler the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate (after current Vice President Kamala Harris and Carol Moseley Braun), and the first openly LGBTQ individual to represent the state of California in that body of Congress.

The 44-year-old has been the head of EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights since 2021. She was the first Black woman to hold that position. Before that, she spent almost twenty 20 years with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), rising to head one of its largest branches and helping to establish a $15 minimum wage for workers. Butler is also a longtime ally of Vice President Harris and the director of public policy and campaigns for AirBNB’s North America division, and a member of the University of California Board of Regents.

Butler’s appointment by Newsom fulfills a pledge he made over two years ago to name a Black woman to the Senate if a vacancy occurred. She will serve as Senator until the next person whom voters will choose in the November 2024 election. Feinstein, the longest-serving Senator until her passing, had announced her intention to retire at the end of her term in 2024. Butler currently resides in Maryland but owns a home in California. The governor’s office stated that she would switch her voter registration to California.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement released by his office. “Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings and fight for all Californians in Washington, D.C.”