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JSU alumna Laphonza Butler to fill Feinstein’s Senate seat

JSU alumna Laphonza Butler to fill Senate seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom selected Jackson State University political science graduate Laphonza Butler to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Butler is the president of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics devoted to helping pro-choice Democratic women run and win at every level of government.
She will make history as the third Black woman to serve in the Senate and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve in the chamber representing California.
Butler grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Jackson State University in 2001. In April, she returned to her alma mater to serve as a keynote for the 50th Anniversary of the Department of Political Science.
Mary Coleman, Ph.D., served as chair of the JSU political science department from 1996-2005. She recalls Butler excelling as a student and a human being. She described her as a trailblazer and citizen of the world.
“Laphonza entered JSU in 1997 with a clear commitment to be useful. She studied and joined organizations, but mostly, she read, listened, and probed with a desire to think about how to translate book learning into consequential actions for herself and others,” Coleman said.
The former chair and retired professor described Butler as one who sought to chart her own path and build durable pathways for Americans not-to-the-manor born.
“As a second-generation college student from modest beginnings, she was intentional, focused, and analytical. Her mother’s educational journey informed her own; it motivated and pushed her into greater self-efficacy. She imagined herself in the future of the community and nation and did not surrender to hollowed-out opportunities,” Coleman said. “I was honored to know her, to teach and mentor her along with scores of other faculty at JSU.”
For two decades, Butler’s leadership in Democratic politics, labor movement, and campaign strategy empowered women as she devoted her life to helping them find their voices.
Butler has built her professional career primarily in California, where she led the nation’s largest union homecare workers’ union, SEIU Local 2015.
Before her role at EMILY’s List, Butler was the director of Public Policy and Campaigns in North America for Airbnb. Additionally, she was a partner at SCRB Strategies, a political consulting firm, where she collaborated with various candidates and served as a senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign.

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