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Sen. Laphonza Butler not running in 2024 after filling Dianne Feinstein’s seat

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(WASHINGTON) — California Sen. Laphonza Butler will not seek to be elected to a full term in 2024 after she was recently appointed to succeed the late Dianne Feinstein, a decision that removes one potential candidate from an already crowded field, she said in a statement on Thursday.

“I’ve spent the past 16 days pursuing my clarity – what kind of life I want to have, what kind of service I want to offer and what kind of voice I want to bring forward,” she said. “After considering those questions, I’ve decided not to run for Senate in the upcoming election.”

Butler, a longtime Democratic strategist and labor leader in California who has never held elected office before, added that “knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you should run a campaign” and said that while the decision may have caught some by surprise, “it’s the right one for me.”

The news was first reported by The New York Times.

Butler’s appointment helped California Gov. Gavin Newsom fulfill his promise to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat in the event of a vacancy. When Butler was sworn in on Oct. 3, she became only the third Black woman to ever serve in the upper chamber. She took her oath from Vice President Kamala Harris, who was the second.

Formerly the president of EMILY’s List, a pro-abortion access political group, Butler is also only the second openly gay woman to serve in the Senate after Tammy Baldwin was elected in 2012 in Wisconsin.

With Butler’s decision to step aside from the 2024 race, she clears the way for an open race to succeed Feinstein. In California, all candidates will run in the March primary together, regardless of party, with the top two advancing to the general election next November.

The primary field currently features three high-profile congressional Democrats: Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.

Last week, 10-time MLB All-Star and former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey announced that he was running for the seat as a Republican and, on Wednesday, Christina Pascucci, a former TV anchor and reporter in Los Angeles, said that she would also run as a Democrat.

Schiff and Porter have so far led the field, according to 538.

Butler, who will serve out the remainder of Feinstein’s term, through January 2025, has not endorsed any of the candidates.

“California voters want leaders who think about them and the issues they care most about. I now have 383 days to serve the people of California with every ounce of energy and effort that I have,” Butler said in her statement on Thursday. “Muhammad Ali once said, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count.’ I intend to do just that.”

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