The race to fill Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the U.S. Senate has begun, and Governor Gavin Newsom has selected Laphonza Butler, a former labor leader turned tech lobbyist, as an interim officeholder. While Butler’s appointment has excited some and disappointed others, her career thus far has shown some liberal leanings. As the president of SEIU local 2015, she championed progressive causes such as the $15 per hour minimum wage for California workers. However, her jump from labor organizing to political consulting, including work for Uber and Airbnb, has raised questions about her progressive values. As Butler takes on the role, it remains to be seen what kind of political leader she will be and for how long she will serve.
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The Death of Dianne Feinstein
The unfortunate passing of Dianne Feinstein, a trailblazing and long-serving female politician, has left a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein’s last years in office were marked by memory lapses and political gaffes, resulting in calls for her resignation and a promise to retire at the end of her term in 2024. However, she passed away before she could fulfill her promise, leading Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint an interim officeholder to fill the seat.
Appointment of Laphonza Butler
Governor Gavin Newsom has selected Laphonza Butler, a longtime political ally, to temporarily fill Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the U.S. Senate. In a statement, Newsom expressed his confidence in Butler, stating that she will continue to break glass ceilings and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.
While some observers are excited about Butler’s appointment, others have expressed concerns about her previous lobbying activity on behalf of large tech companies. They question whether she is progressive enough for the role. However, Butler’s identity as a gay Black woman has been touted as proof of her progressive bona fides by Newsom’s office.
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Who is Laphonza Butler?
Identity and Progressive Bona Fides
Laphonza Butler’s appointment as California’s first openly LGBTQ United States Senator and the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress in American history is a significant milestone. Her identity as a gay Black woman solidifies her progressive credentials and underscores Governor Newsom’s commitment to diversity and representation.
Career in Labor Organizing
Butler’s early career focused on labor organizing, where she held various managerial roles. She served as the president of SEIU local 2015, a union dedicated to long-term care workers in the Los Angeles area, for nearly a decade. She was also the president of SEIU California, a statewide union organization. Butler’s tenure in labor organizing has been characterized by championing progressive causes, such as advocating for a $15 per hour minimum wage for California workers.
Transition to Political Consulting
In 2019, Butler made a transition from labor organizing to political consulting. She joined SCRB Strategies, a consulting firm that has played a crucial role in helping influential figures in California politics get elected, including Governor Newsom and former Governor Jerry Brown. During her time with SCRB, Butler also provided consulting services for Senator Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign.
Work for Uber and Airbnb
Butler’s consulting work extended to the tech industry as well. She was retained by Uber during a time when the company faced challenges due to California’s legislation requiring tech companies to re-classify their workers as employees. As Uber grappled with the implications of this legislation, Butler advised the company on its dealings with organized labor. She later worked for Airbnb as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America, overseeing the company’s lobbying team in Washington, D.C.
Role at EMILY’s List
Most recently, Butler served as the president of EMILY’s List, a well-known political action committee focused on electing Democratic, pro-abortion women to office. Her involvement with EMILY’s List demonstrates her commitment to advancing progressive values and supporting women in politics.
Controversy over Residency
There has been some controversy surrounding Butler’s residency. Her EMILY’s List and Twitter profiles previously indicated that she was based in Maryland. However, a representative from Newsom’s office clarified that while Butler resides in the D.C. area, she also owns a home in California and plans to re-register as a California resident to fulfill the residency requirement for the position.
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Calls for Rep. Barbara Lee
Despite Laphonza Butler’s appointment, some progressive voices have called for Governor Newsom to choose Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, instead. The Congressional Black Caucus, a historically influential force in progressive politics, has expressed their support for Lee, citing her courage, vision, and track record in advancing the progressive agenda.
Other Potential Candidates
In addition to Rep. Barbara Lee, two other politicians, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Katie Porter, have announced their intentions to run for Dianne Feinstein’s former seat. If Butler decides to run for a full term, she may face competition from these candidates.
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Interim Leadership or Full-Term Run?
The question remains whether Laphonza Butler will serve as an interim leader or choose to run for a full term in the U.S. Senate. It is up to her to decide whether she will continue to fill the role temporarily or actively pursue the seat in the upcoming elections.
Assessing Butler’s Political Leadership
While there are concerns about Butler’s previous lobbying work and her potential alignment with corporate interests, it is important to recognize her extensive experience in labor organizing and her commitment to progressive causes. Her role in securing a $15 per hour minimum wage for California workers demonstrates her dedication to advocating for workers’ rights. As Butler navigates her position in the U.S. Senate, it will be crucial to evaluate her political leadership and the extent to which she upholds progressive values.
In conclusion, Laphonza Butler’s appointment as the interim officeholder for Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the U.S. Senate marks a significant milestone in California’s political landscape. Her background in labor organizing, political consulting, and advocacy for progressive causes provides insights into her political character. While some critics raise concerns about her previous lobbying activity, Butler’s identity as a gay Black woman and commitment to diversity underscore her progressive bona fides. Moving forward, it remains to be seen whether she will serve as an interim leader or choose to run for a full term. Evaluating her political leadership will be crucial in assessing her impact and alignment with progressive values.
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