Democrats Adam Schiff and Katie Porter continue to lead the field for the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat.
Sworn in as California’s newest U.S. senator just two weeks ago, Laphonza Butler (left) says she will not run for the seat in 2024. Office of the Vice President of the United States / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Less than two weeks after being sworn in to become the first African-American LGBQT woman to serve in the United States Senate, Laphonza Butler announced Oct. 19 that she would serve out her term as a caretaker only. She will not run for election to the California seat in 2024, she said.
Butler told The New York Times that her initial 18 days in office made her realize that serving in the senate was “not the greatest use of my voice.”
Butler, who was president of the abortion rights group Emily’s List and a longtime union official, was appointed Oct. 2 by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Butler filled the seat left vacant by the death of Dianne Feinstein, who served as a senator from California for 30 years.
The state’s other senator, former Secretary of State Alex Padilla, was also appointed to his seat by Newsom in 2021 after then-Senator Kamala Harris was elected U.S. vice president. But Padilla chose to stand for election in 2022 when he won a second, and this time full term.
But on Oct. 19, Butler told The New York Times that her initial 18 days in office made her realize that serving in the senate was “not the greatest use of my voice.”
Her announcement that she would bow out of the 2024 Senate race came the day after Democratic Party leadership named her to fill Feinstein’s empty seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She must still be confirmed by the full Senate, but her appointment would break a 9-9 partisan deadlock on the committee after Feinstein’s death—a deadlock that effectively froze any nominations of judges to the federal bench by President Joe Biden.
If Butler fills the seat as expected, the 10-9 Democratic majority will allow those judicial nominees to move forward to confirmation by the full Senate.
Butler told the Times that she would nonetheless be “the loudest, proudest champion of California” during the remainder of her term.
Schiff, Porter Top Field for March 5 Primary
California’s primary vote is set for March 5, 2024. In that election, any candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote would win election to the seat now held by Butler. But the most recent polling appears to indicate that two candidates—both Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives—are headed for the runoff which would involve the top two vote-getters if no one takes more than half the votes.
Those two are Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine. According to a Los Angeles Times poll in September, Schiff leads the crowded field with 20 percent followed by Porter at 17 percent. Oakland’s Barbara Lee, also a U.S. representative, is running third in the poll at 7 percent. She is tied at that number with two Republicans, conservative former health insurance CEO James Bradley, and Steve Garvey, a former Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
“I believe leaders should have real clarity about why they’re in office and what they want to do with the power they hold,” Butler told the New York Times, explaining her decision not to seek an elected full term in the Senate.
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