Laphonza Butler Sworn In As New California Senator

The 44-year-old former Kamala Harris adviser says she is undecided on whether she will run for a full term next year.

Laphonza Butler was sworn in as the newest U.S. senator from California on Tuesday by Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator from the Golden State herself.

Butler, a former adviser to Harris who led the Democratic group EMILY’s List, was appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sunday to finish out the term of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The 44-year-old California labor leader is the first Black, openly LGBTQ+ woman to serve in either chamber of Congress. She’s also only the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate, as well as the 12th Black senator in U.S. history.

Butler is undecided on whether she will run for a full term next year. There are already several prominent California Democrats jousting for Feinstein’s seat, including Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Schiff, in particular, has raised a huge campaign war chest in advance of the expensive primary.

“I have no idea. I genuinely don’t know. I want to be focused on honoring the legacy of Sen. Feinstein,” Butler said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times when asked if she would enter the race.

If Butler decides to toss her hat in the ring, it could provoke some drama within the Congressional Black Caucus, which had urged Newsom to appoint veteran California Democratic lawmaker Lee to finish out Feinstein’s term.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Tuesday congratulated Butler but also reiterated that Lee should get the job.

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