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Yes, Laphonza Butler Is Cali Enough To Serve In Senate. Let's Move On.
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California has a new senator-designate, Laphonza Butler, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom swiftly selected to finish the late Dianne Feinstein’s term. Butler has an impressive resume and most recently was president of Emily’s List. However, some critics have pointed out that Butler doesn’t even go here, by which they mean she’s not technically a California resident. She currently lives in Maryland. Newsom did assure everyone that Butler would register to vote in the state before taking office as senator, which is the sort of thing you say when someone doesn’t live there.
In fairness, Democrats have dragged Republicans who want to Senate in states where they don’t live. We’ve personally dinged Herschel Walker, Texas Resident, when he (sort of) returned home to run for Senate in Georgia. Democratic Sen. John Fetterman from Pennsylvania repeatedly body-slammed his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, as a carpet-bagging opportunist from New Jersey. However, we’re not just partisan hacks here. Butler’s situation is significantly different.
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Butler was born in Magnolia, Mississippi, and graduated from the historically Black Jackson State University. After college, she worked as a union organizer for nurses, janitors, and hospital workers in Milwaukee, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Haven, Connecticut. She eventually moved to California in 2009 where she served as president of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers. In 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Butler to the University of California Board of Regents, which establishes university policy, sets tuition costs and employee compensation, and performs long-range planning for all UC campuses and locations. That same year, she joined the California-based political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, where she would play a key role in Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign. She’d earlier helped Harris secure a shared SEIU endorsement for her 2010 attorney general campaign (the successful one).
While at SCRB, Butler advised Uber during its battle with labor groups and California Democrats over a bill that would have classified Uber’s drivers as actual employees with the legal right to benefits, instead of the corporate friendly “independent contractors.” She left SCRB in 2020 and joined Airbnb as director of public policy and campaigns in North America. Oscar Ramirez, a founder at Fulcrum Public Affairs and one of Airbnb’s outside lobbyists, said, “In her various roles over the years, Laphonza has successfully managed the politics with electeds in California, with members of Congress and with the Administration. Knowing how to work with the right people in the right way is part of what she did very well.”
I endorse very little in that last paragraph, but the larger point here is that Butler isn’t some dilettante who feels “spiritually” connected to the state. She also hasn’t declared Maryland her home residence just so she could reduce her tax burden. She was professionally and politically active in California. You obviously can’t criticize Butler’s work over the years in California while simultaneously suggesting she’s a Maryland carpetbagger … well, unfortunately, you probably can. There’s no requirement that Twitter arguments actually make any sense.
However, we should know fairly soon if Butler and her wife plan to stay in California past 2024. October 13 is the deadline for candidates to register with the California Democratic Party to seek an official endorsement at the November convention. If Butler officially registers, that would indicate she’s considering a run for a full-term. She’s certainly more than qualified to represent the state.
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