Newly appointed Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) talks about her predecessor, the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), after attending her first Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 4, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), who recently stepped into the role to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), said on Thursday that she will not seek a full term in the U.S. Senate next year.
Her decision has significant implications, particularly in a state where the 2024 Senate race had already garnered intense attention. It means she will serve out Ms. Feinstein’s term through Jan. 3, 2025, and not seek a full, six-year term.
In a statement on X, Ms. Butler said that her decision was a result of a period of introspection and a commitment to serve the people of California with clarity and purpose.
“I’ve always believed elected leaders should have real clarity about why they’re in office and what they want to do with the responsibility and power they have,” she continued. “I’ve spent the past 16 days pursuing my own clarity—what kind of life I want to have, what kind of service I want to offer, and what kind of voice I want to bring forward.”
On Oct. 1, Mr. Newsom announced that Ms. Butler would succeed the late Ms. Feinstein, who had served in the Senate for over three decades.
Ms. Butler had never held public office and was mostly unknown to the public. However, she was a prominent labor advocate and had previously worked as an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris during her 2020 presidential campaign.
She also served as the president of Emily’s List, a pro-abortion advocacy organization, from 2021 until this year.
Ms. Butler played a significant role in the labor movement. At the age of 30, she was elected as the president of California’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 union.
Had Ms. Butler chosen to run, as a relatively unknown public official who didn’t win an election, she may have faced an uphill battle and challenges fundraising the millions needed to run a successful campaign in California, according to Matt Lesenyie, an assistant professor of political science at Cal State Long Beach, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“Knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you should run a campaign,” Ms. Butler said. “I know this will be a surprise to many because traditionally we don’t see those who have power let it go. It may not be the decision people expected, but it’s the right one for me.”
The senator emphasized her commitment to serving California’s voters and addressing the issues that matter most to them.
“I now have 383 days to serve the people of California with every ounce of energy and effort that I have,” she added.
Ms. Butler’s announcement comes as a surprise to many, as her appointment had generated anticipation regarding her potential future in the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Butler’s decision not to pursue a full term in the Senate not only reshapes the upcoming political landscape, but also alleviates a political quandary for California Gov. Gavin Newsom who had earlier signaled that the appointee, whom he promised would be a black woman, was intended as an interim selection.
This move was widely interpreted as an indication that the chosen candidate would not enter the 2024 Senate race, which had been underway for some time. However, Mr. Newsom subsequently clarified that he would not exert pressure on Ms. Butler to stay out of the contest.
Ms. Butler’s decision now means that California’s highly anticipated 2024 Senate race will remain focused on the three prominent Democrats who had been actively campaigning for the position in the vast state of California.
Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee have been actively fundraising for their campaigns across the state.
Steve Garvey, a former Los Angeles Dodgers star, has also thrown his hat in the ring as a Republican.
Mr. Schiff and Ms. Porter lead in the polls and have raised the most money.
In California’s “top-two system,” or “jungle primary,” all candidates are on the ballot for the primary election regardless of their political affiliation, but only the candidates who finish in first and second place will advance to the November general election.