Newsom’s Identity Politics Pick to Fill Feinstein’s Seat Isn’t from California, Raising Constitutional Questions

California Governor Gavin Newsom has tapped Laphonza Butler, a far left abortion-on-demand activist, to fill the Senate seat long held by Democrat Diane Feinstein, who died Friday.

There’s one very big problem. Butler, a lesbian who fits Newsom’s identity politics-driven pledge to pick a black woman to serve out Feinstein’s current term, isn’t a resident of California.

U.S. Constitution qualifications require a senator to be a resident of the state in which they serve.

Butler resides in Silver Springs, MD, and is registered to vote there. She did live in California before moving to Maryland to take the leadership post at pro-abortion candidate funder Emily’s List.

No problem, liberal election law expert Rick Hasen told the Los Angeles Times. He said appointments to the Senate must reside in the states they represent upon assuming office.

“So in theory someone could change their residency upon appointment,” Hasen, director of the Safeguarding Democracy Policy at the UCLA School of Law, told the publication.

But not so fast.

Constitutional law expert Hans von Spakovsky notes the ultimate arbiter of membership in the Senate is the Senate itself.

As the Congressional Research Service explains in a report on the subject, the Senate has the power to exclude, to refuse by a majority vote to seat a senator-designate.

“Under Article I, Section 5, clause 1 of the Constitution, each house of Congress is granted the express authority to judge the ‘elections,’ the ‘returns,’ and the ‘qualifications’ of its own Members,” the CRS report notes. “This explicit delegation in the Constitution grants the Senate broad authority to judge and to make the final determination concerning not only the narrow constitutional ‘qualifications’ of a Member-elect or Member-designate (age, citizenship, and inhabitancy in the state), but also the legitimacy and validity of the ‘election’ or selection of those presenting ‘credentials’ (the official ‘return’ from state officers) to the Senate.”

As of Monday afternoon, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had not voiced any opposition to Newsom’s appointment or to seating Butler. His office did not return The Star News Network’s request for comment.

The Star reached out to several senators, including California’s other leftist senator, Alex Padilla. Padilla also was appointed by Newsom, filling the vacancy of Kamala Harris after she took the office of vice president in 2020. Butler has served as an advisor for the vice president, and for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign.  Padilla, unlike Butler, resided in California at the time. His office also did not return The Star’s request for comment.

Neither did the two Democrat U.S. senators from Maryland, where Butler has resided in recent years.

Von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, said it is highly unlikely the Senate will refuse to seat Butler.

“The ultimate judge is the U.S. Senate. While this may raise a lot of issues, the chances are the Democrats who control the U.S. Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris [who has a tie-breaking vote], would block any opposition,” he said.

But for a Democratic Party that often accuses Republicans of fighting a war on democracy, Newsom’s outside appointment reeks of hypocrisy.

“In a state of 39 million people, the governor could and should pick someone who is not only a resident but deeply involved in all of the issues in California,” von Spakovsky said. “That’s difficult to do while you actually live in Maryland.”

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-48), was expected to send a letter to Newsom, Padilla, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and McConnell on Monday afternoon questioning the constitutionality of her ability to take office while residing in a different state than the one she will represent, Fox News reported.

“We’re not talking about the question of majority, we’re talking about 38 million Californians who have an absolute right to have somebody who puts California first – not who puts the District of Columbia first or Maryland, where she’s a resident, first,” Issa told Fox News Digital in an interview Monday.

Newsom tapped Butler to be a “caretaker” of Feinstein’s seat, which is up for election in November 2024. Three other prominent Democrats — who actually bothered to live in California —  are vying for the seat. One of the candidates, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a black congresswoman from Oakland, has publicly registered here displeasure with Newsom’s interim selection. The governor put no restrictions on Butler’s future, saying it’s up to her if she wants to seek election in 2024.

Butler is a political pick, and definitely a transactional one.

She is president of Emily’s List, a federal PAC that bundles and gives contributions to pro-abortion, female Democratic candidates for office.

“Since its inception, Emily’s list has given or bundled over $45 million to Democratic candidates or PACs,” according to politics tracker Influence Watch. Additionally, EMILY’s List spun off the Super PAC Women Vote!, which has spent $50 million independent expenditures in support/against candidates.”

In 2020, the organization claimed to have raised $460 million, spent $160 million on independent campaign expenditures, endorsed 1,800 women, helped 1,000 women into office, and trained 14,000 women to be candidates and left-leaning political operatives.

Emily’s List’s allies have generously contributed to Newsom’s campaigns, and the abortion-on-demand supporting governor has long delivered a significant return on investment to groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice California. The organizations have feverishly worked since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade in buying candidates bent on resurrecting nationalized abortion protections.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault,” Newsom said in a statement. “Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.”

Butler also checks off the Big Labor box.

She served for many years at the helm of SEIU Local 2015, a union representing California’s long-term caregivers. She then took a post as partner with SCRB Strategies, whose client included Newsom. Butler also worked in public policy for Airbnb, and served as a University of California regent, according to her biography.

“I am honored to accept Gov. Newsom’s nomination to be a U.S. Senator for I state I have long called home,” she wrote in a statement from Emily’s List.

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.



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