Californian lawmakers from both parties urged recently selected U.S. Senator Designate Laphonza Butler to not run for the Senate in 2024, saying that it is not fair to the other candidates in the race and that the remainder of Dianne Feinstein’s term should remain a caretaker role.
For months, speculation has mounted as to whom Governor Gavin Newsom would pick should Feinstein have retired or died in office. Because of outcry over replacing Kamala Harris with Alex Padilla in 2021 instead of with another black woman, Newsom subsequently vowed to have his next pick be a black woman. Later, he also confirmed that his next pick would be one who would just finish out the rest of the term, and for them to not carry it over for a Senate run in 2024.
The latter decision caused outcry earlier this year from Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), the Democratic candidate who is currently polling between 3rd and 5th place in recent polls for the Senate primary. As her being selected would give her a significant boost because of being the incumbent, Newsom saying that he would not select her on grounds that she is running for Senate effectively stopped her in her tracks.
“I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” said Newsom last month. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that. I stick by my pledge to appoint a Black woman to the seat. We hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I’ve said very publicly on a consistent basis.”
However, things changed over the weekend. Following the death of Senator Feinstein, Newsom subsequently selected Butler as the interim replacement. Despite earlier assurances that he didn’t want to interfere, Newsom spokesman Anthony York said on Monday that Newsom did not ask Butler to stay out of the race when selecting her. As Butler has not given a yes or no on running in 2024 yet, and with paperwork on running next year not due until December, it is still an open question on if Butler will make a surprise last minute entrance into the already crowded race.
Butler and the 2024 race
Along with former Major League Baseball star Steve Garvey, Butler is now a major maybe in the race. But on Monday, Republicans and fellow Democrats called on Butler to stay out and to not join other top candidates such as Lee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA), lawyer Eric Early, investor Lexi Reese, and executive James Bradley.
“No, I don’t believe she should,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA). “There are three exceptional candidates that have been working more than a year. I just think it’s terribly unfair that she would do so.”
“But no, I don’t think she should. I think that that’s the three candidates. The two women and the gentlemen are very talented. Each and every one is putting together a viable campaign. And you could be air dropped into this is simply not fair. And by the way, I don’t think many people know her.”
Washington-based election advisor Stan Taney added, “Butler jumping in the fray would actually damage the Democrats more. They are already looking at a split primary and potentially giving the Republicans a shoo-in for a candidate. They don’t want to look even more split than they already do. Butler would only take away votes for the three major Democrats, especially Lee because they share a big chunk of the same base. Also, Butler is pretty far left. There’s a lot of moderate Democrats who would not like her.”
“If Butler is smart, she’ll stay in office until the next Senate swearing-in, then parlay this experience into a higher role or an elected position. A cabinet position, bigtime non-profit presidency, or even a run for office in 2026 are possible as long as she doesn’t screw up. She runs and loses in 2024, then it is tainted. It hurts her career prospects and it hurts Newsom who picked her.”
An announcement by Butler if she is to run in 2024 is expected soon.