There is still only one Black woman running for U.S. Senate in California next year.
Laphonza Butler, the nation’s newest U.S. Senator, announced that she will not be running for a full term next year following her recent interim appointment to the position by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Now, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee – the longtime California Congresswoman who is running for Butler’s Senate seat – is reacting to Butler’s announcement with grace and aplomb.
Butler said her decision was “the right one” for her, a career labor leader who most recently worked as president of EMILYs List, a nonprofit organization that works to get Democratic pro-choice women elected to office.
“I have spent my life working for working men and women whether I was fighting to win more pay for their labor, strengthen their communities or help them get elected,” Butler said Thursday afternoon in a statement posted to social media. “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.”
After contemplating her future since being sworn into office by Vice President Kamala Harris earlier this month, Butler said she “decided not to run for a full term in the U.S. Senate.”
Butler suggested that her decision was not based on the assumption she would lose the election.
“Knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you should run a campaign,” Butler continued. “I know this will be a surprise to many because traditionally we don’t see those who have power let it go.”
Butler added: “It may not be the decision people expected but it’s the right one for me.”
In response, Lee showered Butler with praise for serving Californians.
“Senator Butler took on the enormous responsibility of filling an open senate seat with grace, integrity, and a deep commitment to delivering for the people of California,” Lee wrote in a statement posted to social media. “I look forward to continuing our work together for the remainder of her term.”
Lee has maintained that he would remain a candidate in the Senate race to fill the seat made vacant by the death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
After Feinstein announced he would not seek reelection, Newsom in May publicly pledged to fill her seat, if necessary, on an interim basis with a Black woman. It was at least the second time Newsom went on record with that vow.
Last month, prior to Feinstein’s death, Newsom clarified that not only would he make an “interim appointment” of a Black woman for any Senate vacancy but the person he chose would not be an existing candidate for Feinstein’s seat.
Newsom’s response was “insulting,” Lee said.
“The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election,” Lee responded. “Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”
After Newsom appointed Butler, Lee said she would work with the new senator while also being “singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate.”
Lee also drew attention to her own 25 years of experience on Capitol Hill as something that makes her the best candidate for the job.
“CA deserves an experienced Senator who will deliver on progressive priorities,” Lee continued. “That’s exactly what I’m running to do.”
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley predicted that Lee would succeed Butler in a scenario that would have “two incredible Black women serve consecutively when we elect @BarbaraLeeForCA as the next Senator from California.”
Anticipation for Butler’s decision reached all but a fever pitch among those watching the dynamics of the race.
According to the most recent polling from late last month, Lee was polling in third place with 8% behind fellow California Democratic Congressmembers Adam Schiff (20%) and Katie Porter (15%).
Schiff has a campaign treasure chest of nearly $30 million, according to recent figures on Ballotpedia. Porter has more than $10 million and Lee has nearly $1.5 million.
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