WASHINGTON — Laphonza Butler was sworn in Tuesday to fill the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who died last week at age 90.
Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime Butler ally and adviser, took the oath of office, drawing thunderous applause in the Senate and in the gallery.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom made a quick decision on Sunday to choose Butler, chairman of EMILY’s List. She is the third Black woman to serve as a senator, joining Harris and Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., in the 1990s.
She is the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the chamber and will serve alongside fellow California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla.
Butler has led EMILY’s List, a group focused on electing Democratic women who support abortion rights, since 2021, when she became the first Black woman to lead the organization.
“It is an honor to accept Governor Newsom’s nomination as U.S. Senator for a state I have long called home,” Butler said in a statement Monday. “I am honored by the governor’s trust. “Senator Dianne Feinstein’s leadership and legacy are immeasurable.” I will do my best to honor them by dedicating my time and energy to serving the people of California and this great nation.”
Butler lives in Maryland, but a spokesman, Matthew Wing, told NBC News on Monday that she had re-registered to vote in California.
With their swearing in, the Democrats once again have a majority of 51 to 49; It puts her in a position to fill Feinstein’s seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently deadlocked.
Feinstein had said she would not run for re-election in 2024, and the main candidates in the Senate race are Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.
Before Feinstein’s death, Newsom told NBC News that he planned to make an “interim” appointment if he needed to fill her seat because he did not want to overturn any of the current candidates.
However, he clarified that there were no restrictions on Butler’s appointment and she was free to run for Senate if she wanted to. Butler will serve out the remainder of Feinstein’s term, which ends in early 2025. She has not yet indicated whether she plans to run for the Senate seat.