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Senate Appointment Again Demonstrates Newsom’s Presidential Ambitions

Senate Appointment Again Demonstrates Newsom’s Presidential Ambitions

Then EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler speaks onstage during The 2022 MAKERS Conference at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif., on Oct. 25, 2022. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The MAKERS Conference)

John Seiler

John Seiler

10/5/2023

Updated: 10/6/2023

Commentary
The pundits are giving many reasons for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s surprise appointment of Laphonza Butler to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Alex Padilla, appointed by Mr. Newsom in 2021 to the seat vacated by Vice President Kamala Harris, enthused, “Throughout her career, Laphonza Butler has been a strong voice for working families, LGBTQ rights, and a champion for increasing women’s representation in politics.”
But there’s really only one reason: She has been a prodigious fundraiser as the head of Emily’s List, a liberal activist group pushing radical feminism. That’s why it doesn’t matter she doesn’t live in California, but Maryland. And has never held elective office.
This action by Mr. Newsom will be especially brilliant if she chooses to run for reelection next year. Which I think she will. Why wouldn’t she? Then she would ace out the Democratic candidates who already announced they’re running: Rep. Katie Porter, who also has a strong fundraising machine among feminists; Rep. Adam Schiff, a good fundraiser from heading the first impeachment of President Trump; and Rep. Barbara Lee, who is not doing well in the polls and is not a good fundraiser.
Mr. Schiff or Ms. Porter, should they get into the Senate, could become potential rivals of Mr. Newsom should his presidential run be delayed to 2028. Except for foreign-born members, who are disqualified, and those too old, every Senate member is a presidential wannabe. Ms. Lee would not be a rival because she’s already 77.
By contrast, Ms. Butler would owe her career to Mr. Newsom—and she’s only 44. So she would be unlikely to run against him. Her presidential ambitions easily could wait until 2028, at age 49, or 2032, at age 53.
Then EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler speaks onstage during EMILY's List's 2023 Pre-Oscars Breakfast at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 7, 2023. (Araya Doheny/Getty Images for EMILY's List)

Then EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler speaks onstage during EMILY's List's 2023 Pre-Oscars Breakfast at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 7, 2023. (Araya Doheny/Getty Images for EMILY's List)

What Is Emily’s List?

Emily’s List’s web front page explains, “We recruit, train, and support Democratic pro-choice women running for office.” This will be helpful for Mr. Newsom, even though he’s not a woman. Because Ms. Butler knows how to raise heaps of money for pro-choice candidates. She knows the wealthy donors, as well as how to send out emails, text messages, and snail mailers to smaller donors, who also are essential.
In the early 1980s I worked for conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie’s company as an editor at Conservative Digest, which he then owned. A key to all the messages—back then just snail mail efforts—is even if people don’t contribute, they’re reading the printed material. They’re getting the message you want.
Back in 1994, Rep. Newt Gingrich put himself in the House speaker’s chair and Republicans in charge of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in four decades, by training new candidates. He visited our editorial board at the Orange County Register early in the year to talk about his programs and left behind the cassette tapes he sent to GOP candidates around the country. I still have the tapes somewhere. They were impressive and taught such skills as canvassing for voters and writing speeches.
Others have followed that example, such as the Emily’s List Training Center, which says, “We’re training Democratic pro-choice women to run for office—and win. EMILYs List is bringing our decades of experience online to help you run a winning campaign.” Followed by a “Get Started” button.
And they post free online trainings anybody can use. Such as Defining Your Values; Delivering Your Message; and How to Work on a Campaign. Plus 60 more. They’re about an hour long. I watched the beginnings of a couple, and they’re excellent. If I were running for office, I’d use them.

Winning Candidates

Emily’s List boasts of “Women We’ve Helped Elect”: Vice President Kamala Harris; nine incumbent governors, including Kathy Hochul of New York, Katie Hobbs of Arizona, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and Tina Kotek of Oregon. And 11 former governors, including Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, now the secretary of energy, and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, now the secretary of commerce.
Also, 24 current or former U.S. Senators, including the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and former Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, also the 2016 presidential candidate. As well as 175 U.S. House members and more than 1,500 state and local officials.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about gun safety at the White House in Washington on Sept. 22, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about gun safety at the White House in Washington on Sept. 22, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Who Contributes? Who Gets the Money?

A 2008 study by the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy looked at contributors to Emily’s List. Drawing on a Federal Election Commission data, they noted in general most political contributors are men. But contributors of $200 or more to Emily’s List “are overwhelmingly female, albeit drawing from a relatively affluent and activist stratum of women. Examining contributors’ partisan and ideological proclivities as well as their policy preferences and priorities, we found EMILY’S List contributors support women’s equality and reproductive rights from a liberal feminist perspective.”
According to Open Secrets, in the 2022 election cycle, Emily’s list spend $4,871,001. Top recipients included:
  • $3.4 million to Women Vote!, an outside group urging women to join elections.
  • $536,802 for Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who won re-election against Republican Adam Laxalt in a close election, 48.81 percent to 48.04 percent. The margin was just 7,928. So the Emily’s List money was crucial.
  • $495,107 for Cheri Beasley, who lost to Republican Ted Budd in North Carolina, 50.5 percent to 47.3 percent. The Emily’s List contribution kept it close.
  • $470,114 for Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who won re-election fairly easily over retired Gen. Dan Bolduc, 53.5 percent to 44.4 percent. That was an immense improvement over Hassan’s performance in 2016, when the margin was just 1,000 votes in her victory over Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
I’ll skip the specific contributions for earlier years, but here are the totals for spending in the last decade for each two-year election cycle. The presidential cycles naturally bring more contributions and spending.
  • 2020: $7.7 million in contributions and $38 million in “outside spending”
  • 2018: $9.9 million in contributions
  • 2016: $6.8 million in contributions and $33 million in “outside spending”
  • 2014: $4.1 million in contributions and $8.2 million in “outside spending”
  • 2012: $4.3 million in contributions and $7.7 million in “outside spending”
(Note: Open Secrets explains, “The term ‘outside spending’ refers to political expenditures made by groups or individuals independently of, and not coordinated with, candidates’ committees. Groups in this category range from conventional party committees to the more controversial super PACs and 501(c) ‘dark money’ organizations.” That is, the regular spending goes directly to candidates, while “outside spending” goes to groups not directly connected to the candidate.)
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks with Fox News host Sean Hannity and shortly after the GOP debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks with Fox News host Sean Hannity and shortly after the GOP debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Conclusion: Newsom Bonanza

Emily’s List’s record certainly is not perfect. But they win more than they lose. And they definitely have a national effect.
Putting Sen. Laphonza Butler on his team is a great coup for Mr. Newsom which will supercharge a presidential campaign, whenever he chooses to start one. Money is the jet-grade octane needed to win. Mr. Newsom is fueling up.
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John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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