Senator Laphonza Butler, caretaker of the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat, is abandoning his run for a full term in 2024

Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY'S List, speaks at a meeting held by the Latino Victory Fund, Thursday, October 8.  20, 2022, in Coral Gables, Florida.  The midterm elections are on November 8.  (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

Senator Laphonza Butler, caretaker of the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat, is abandoning his run for a full term in 2024

Elections 2024, California politics

Benjamin Oresces
Ziema Mehta
Taryn Luna

Oct. 19, 2023

Labor leader and prominent Democratic activist Laphonza Butler, who was appointed to fill Senator Dianne Feinstein’s term after the veteran politician died, announced TK that she would not run for a full term in the Senate in 2024.

Despite her successful career, steeped in politics,

Butler had never held public office and seemed relatively unknown to most voters in the state. Had Butler run for office, she would have faced the enormous challenge of quickly raising the millions of dollars needed to run a successful campaign in a state as vast as California.

“Knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you have to run a campaign,” Butler said in a statement. “I know this will come as a surprise to many because traditionally we don’t see those in power letting go. It may not be the decision people expected, but for me it’s the right decision.”

In California’s 2024 Senate race, Butler has already declared her candidacy and is said to have joined

a crowded field that includes Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Katie Porter of Irvine and Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, all of whom have been crisscrossing the state since the winter, courting voters and raising money. Former Dodgers star Steve Garvey, a Republican, also recently said he is running for office.

The primaries are in March and

Schiff and Porter are at the top of the polls. They raised the most money during the race and could spend tens of millions of dollars in the coming months. Due to California’s “jungle primary” system, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the March primary, regardless of political party, will compete in the November runoff.


With the exception of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appointed Butler to fill Feinstein’s seat, many of the state’s political strategists, donors and influential unions have cast their lot for one of the three most prominent Democratic candidates.

Schiff currently has the support of six statewide unions, including the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Schiff and Lee, who are trailing in the polls, have the support of most elected officials in Sacramento and the state’s congressional delegation.

At a recent candidates forum, the trio said they planned to run regardless of Butler’s decision, adding that a competitive race is healthy and benefits voters.

“I think this race galvanized and encouraged California to have important conversations about whether we were getting what we needed from Washington,” Porter said.

Feinstein served in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years before she died on September 29. Even before she decided not to run for re-election earlier this year, Porter entered the race. Schiff and Lee soon followed. Throughout the spring, when Feinstein missed work due to health concerns, the Democratic members of Congress running for her seat refrained from criticizing her and simply sent good messages.

wishes for her recovery.

During the race, the question loomed as to whether Feinstein would serve her entire term or whether Newsom would appoint a replacement. The governor had already filled vacancies for the state’s other Senate seat after Harris was elected vice president, as well as for secretary of state and attorney general.

In those cases, those appointments effectively cleared the field as each appointee served a full term. Newsom seemed sensitive to this dire situation in the Senate race, saying in an interview last month that he would not pick any of the candidates running for the seat.

It would be completely unfair to Democrats who have done their best, Newsom said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

After appointing Butler, however, Newsom insisted there were no conditions preventing her from running


for the chair.

“That’s her decision. And I look forward to her making that decision on her own time,” he told reporters in Los Angeles on Friday.


. “And I was crystal clear when we discussed [the appointment] “That was not a criterion, that was not a condition and that decision is hers.”

Newsom appointed Butler to fill Feinstein’s seat just days after her death and speculation quickly arose over whether she would seek the seat in the 2024 election. Some political strategists wondered whether she could raise enough money to be competitive. While Butler is well-known in political circles, she is virtually unknown to most California voters and would have to spend millions on advertising campaigns to change that, an expensive task considering that the state has some of the most expensive media markets in the country has. .


Until Butler’s ties to two prominent fundraising bases in the Democratic party could have boosted her prospects. Butler previously led EMILY’s List, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle supporting pro-choice female Democratic politicians. Previously, Butler served as president of SEIU California, a politically influential union that can deliver campaign dollars, door knockers and votes to its 700,00 members in California. A day after her nomination was announced, Butler told The Times that she had “no idea” whether she would run for the 2024 election, only that she planned to devote her time and energy to serving the public of California.

Newsom put himself in a dangerous position by promising to appoint a black woman to Feinstein’s post if she could not complete her term, a promise motivated in part by frustration over his decision to appoint then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a of his long

time confidantes, to replace Harris. She was the only black woman serving in the Senate at the time.

Backed by the Congressional Black Caucus, Lee sought the temporary appointment. She lashed out at Newsom after he said he would not select any candidate running for the seat, a move that prompted two Democratic strategists to withdraw from an independent expenditure committee that supported her bid. After Butler was appointed earlier this month, Lee stood by her side during a ceremonial swearing-in.

California is one of three states that can elect a black woman to the Senate

in 2024

. In Delaware, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is running to replace Sen. Tom Carper. In Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is running in a Democratic primary to succeed Sen. Ben Cardin.


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