Laphonza Butler becomes the only Black woman in the Senate and first openly gay in Congress

BY Preta Peace Namasaba October 17, 2023 11:52 PM EDT
Laphonza Butler. Photo credit: NAACP

Following the death of Dianne Feinstein in September, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to represent California in the Senate, making her the only black woman in the Senate. Butler is also the first LGBTQ+ person to represent California and the first openly Lesbian Black woman in Congress.

The third-ever Black woman in the Senate, Butler joins a repertoire of trailblazing Black female pioneers. Vice President Kamala Harris was the most recent and Carol Moseley Braun was the first Black woman in Senate. Butler was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month.

I’m honored to accept Governor Newsom’s appointment to be U.S. Senator for a state I have made my home and honored by his trust in me to serve the people of California and this great nation. No one will ever measure up to the legacy of Senator Dianne Feinstein, but I will do my best to honor her legacy and leadership by committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California. I am ready to serve.

Laphonza Butler, Senator Designate

Butler is the president of EMILY’s List, the largest resource in the nation for women in politics. She leads the organization’s endeavors to vote for Democratic pro-choice women all over the US. She was the first woman of color and mother to lead the organization. Butler will be stepping down from her position as President.

A Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government graduate from Jackson State University, Butler has over two decades of experience in the labor movement. She served as the President of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW), the largest local union of long-term care workers in the state of CA representing 185,000 caregivers.

Butler was also the President of SEIU Local 2015, the largest labor union in California representing more than 325,000 long-term care workers. She also worked on the campaign to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 in California, leading the way in the country.

In addition, Butler has worked as a political campaign organizer and strategist. She was a Senior adviser to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Together with political consultants Ace Smith, Sean Clegg and Juan Rodriguez, Butler in 2018 launched SCRB Strategies, a political consulting firm. She played a pivotal in Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Butler went on to work as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America at Airbnb. She was the director of the Board of Governors of the Los Angeles Federal Reserve System and a member of the University of California Board of Regents. Butler has also served on the boards of the National Children’s Defense Fund, BLACK PAC, and the Bay Area Economic Council Institute. She is the director of Vision to Learn, a nonprofit which provides glasses to children in underserved communities.

An outstanding champion for civil rights, Laphonza Butler was named a “Champion for Change” by President Barack Obama.