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2023 Newsmaker of the Year Sen. Laphonza Butler


Third Black woman to serve in U.S. Senate

Our Weekly has selected freshman Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) as its 2023 Newsmaker of the Year.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler to complete the term of the late Sen. Diane Feinstein who passed away at age 90. Butler is California’s first African-American and openly-LGBTQ person to serve in the United States Senate.

In 2021, Butler became president of Emily’s List, which helps to elect women who support abortion rights across the U.S. She was presiding over the organization when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and has been at the forefront of helping Democrats hone their message on abortion rights while tying the issue to the broader fight for voting rights.

Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Butler told the New York Times, “We think that every Republican running for office has to make their intentions known to voters about where they stand on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.” Upon her appointment, Butler vowed to continue Feinstein’s legacy by “committing to work for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and all of California.”

Butler served as an advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign and has continued to advocate for her and other pro-abortion-rights women in office. In March of that year, Emily’s List identified 18 House races where it will defend incumbent Democrats.

Earlier, Butler was a labor organizer for nearly two decades, leading the biggest union in  California and one of the nation’s largest home care workers unions, SEIU Local 2015. In that position, Butler was at the forefront of the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage in California.

Butler has also been an executive at Airbnb, an advisor to Uber on its dealings with unions, and served on the board of regents for the University of California.

Butler is the third Black woman to serve in the Senate, after Harris and Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois. Two current U.S. senators, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are members of the LGBTQ community.

Butler has announced that she will not seek a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate. Presently, Reps. Adam Schiff (CA-30), Katie Porter (CA-47) and Barbara Lee (CA-12) are the leading Democrats vying for the seat.