Newsom Sidesteps Progressive Powerhouse for Feinstein’s Senate Seat

In the ever-unpredictable landscape of American politics, California just threw us another curveball. Late Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his hand, naming Laphonza Butler – President of EMILY’s List, a heavyweight Democratic reproductive rights group – to step into the Senate shoes left behind by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

But here’s where it gets intriguing for progressive circles and fans of The Young Turks. The appointment skirts around vigorous appeals from not just progressive activists, but also some dedicated Democratic law professionals who championed Rep. Barbara Lee, a tenacious progressive icon in the House. Lee, already in the race for Feinstein’s seat in 2024, seemed a natural fit to many.

Gov. Newsom, despite his prior commitment to assigning a Black woman to any unplanned Senate vacancy, made it clear that Lee wouldn’t be his choice, emphasizing his reluctance to interfere in the upcoming primaries. But was this just political prudence, or a missed chance to elevate a seasoned progressive warrior at a critical juncture?

In justifying his pick, Newsom hailed Butler as a stalwart for reproductive freedom, equal protection, and anti-gun violence causes, expressing confidence in her ability to wave the Californian flag high in D.C. His confidence is rooted in Butler’s resume: a past presidency at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 and advisory roles to Vice President Kamala Harris. However, Butler isn’t without her share of controversies; her past associations with Uber and Airbnb, and her role in the former’s 2019 gig workers’ classification discussions, might ruffle some feathers in organized labor factions.

But here’s a peculiar twist: Soon after Newsom’s announcement, eagle-eyed journalists spotted a peculiar edit on EMILY’s List – Butler’s bio no longer mentioned her residence in Maryland. A swift clarification from Newsom’s quarters confirmed that, indeed, Butler had moved for her EMILY’s role but would soon re-register to vote in California.

Newsom’s choice, however, doesn’t tether Butler from tossing her hat into the 2024 Senate race, setting the stage for what might become a heated and crowded Democratic contest.

Earlier, the Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Steven Horsford, ardently pushed for Lee’s nomination, praising her undying dedication to justice, equality, and a fierce stance against corporate favoritism. Horsford’s endorsement paints Lee as the antidote America needs against the “sickness” of greed and an uncompromising advocate for the progressive agenda.

While Lee graciously acknowledged Newsom’s decision, she was clear about her singular vision – to clinch the Senate win. In her words, California deserves a senator with a robust progressive track record, a pledge she’s fiercely committed to fulfilling.

The coming months promise to be an exhilarating political rollercoaster in the Golden State. One thing’s clear: regardless of political maneuverings, progressives have their eyes set on bold, transformative change for Californians and the nation.