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Newly appointed California Sen. Laphonza Butler says she won’t run to keep the seat in 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler after the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
FILE - Laphonza Butler, President of EMILY's List, speaks during an event in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has named Butler to fill the U.S. Senate seat made vacant by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's death. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Laphonza Butler, then the president of EMILY's List, in Washington on June 23. Susan Walsh / AP file

WASHINGTON — Laphonza Butler, a Democrat who was appointed this month to fill the seat of Dianne Feinstein of California, said Thursday that she won’t seek a full Senate term next year.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler, the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, after Feinstein's death last month at age 90. She was sworn in Oct. 3.

"Knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you should run a campaign," Butler said in a statement.

"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. After considering those questions I’ve decided not to run for Senate in the upcoming election."

The New York Times first reported her decision. Butler, who is the third Black woman to serve in the Senate, said she'll finish the rest of Feinstein's term, which ends in January 2025, with "every ounce of energy and effort that I have."

Newsom had said before Feinstein's death that he planned to make an “interim” appointment if he needed to fill her seat, arguing he didn’t want to tip the scales toward any of the current Senate candidates in next year's election, who include Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.

Newsom later made it clear that there were no restrictions on Butler’s appointment and that she was free to run next year if she wanted.

Butler had led EMILY’s List, a group focused on electing Democratic women who support abortion rights, since 2021.

She said in her statement Thursday that her decision might come as "a surprise to many because traditionally we don’t see those who have power let it go. It may not be the decision people expected but it’s the right one for me."

Frank Thorp V reported from Washington, and Dareh Gregorian reported from New York.