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Will Laphonza Butler run in California’s 2024 election?

BY Lynn La (Video by ONME News)

SACRAMENTO,CA--Governor Gavin Newsom did not make his pick to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein promise not to run for a full term in 2024.

So as Laphonza Butler has been sworn into office this week, that’s the big question hanging over her — and the U.S. Senate race next year.

The interim appointment complicates an already complex campaign. For one thing, there will be a special election to decide who serves the final two months of Feinstein’s term, and it will be held at the same time as the regularly scheduled election. So voters will have two U.S. Senate decisions in March, and again in November.

And if Butler does run, it will throw another wild card into the campaign, in which three big-name Democrats — U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee — are already vying to push aside Republican candidates and make the top two for next November’s general election.

At the latest, Butler has until Dec. 8 to decide, but she’ll likely face immense pressure to announce her plans before then. Butler spokesperson Matt Wing told CalMatters Monday that she “is focused on respecting and honoring Sen. Feinstein’s legacy…. Politics can wait.”

As for the other three Democratic candidates, they do stand to gain some benefits should they run in the special election. If they win, they get seated sooner and accrue seniority over other newly elected senators. Running in both elections would also allow them to double campaign contribution limits.

Meanwhile, Newsom effusively praised Butler in his first public remarks about his appointment.

“I had an extraordinary number of incredibly qualified people, and Laphonza was one of them," said Newsom. "She understands organizing is bottom-up, not top-down. She understands moral authority, as I said, not just formal authority. I mean, she’s next-level qualified…. She’s more qualified than the vast majority of folks in elected office.”

The governor also addressed criticism from Republicans who pointed out that she doesn’t currently live in California. (In a statement Sunday, Assembly GOP leader James Gallagher of Chico said “Californians deserve real representation, not a political favor for a well-connected campaign operative who doesn’t even live here”).

The governor dismissed those concerns, noting that Butler is re-registering to vote in California: “She literally took that job at EMILYs List, still has a house out here and re-registered. And we were transparent about that.”

Butler was sworn in October 3 by Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black U.S. senator to represent California and the most recently-elected Black woman to the Senate. For more about how Butler could reshape the U.S. Senate race, read Stella’s story.


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