UNITED STATES NEWS

To run or not to run? New California senator faces tough decision on whether to enter 2024 campaign

Oct 10, 2023, 9:09 PM

FILE - Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., is seen during a re-enactment of her swearing-in ceremony to the ...

FILE - Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., is seen during a re-enactment of her swearing-in ceremony to the Senate to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The crowded, wide-open race to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has hit a suspenseful turn as candidates wait for the newly appointed senator to decide if she will seek reelection after being picked to complete the remainder of Feinstein's term. Butler, a Democratic insider and former labor leader, had never held public office before joining the Senate. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — To run or not to run?

The crowded, wide-open race to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in California has hit a suspenseful turn as candidates wait for newly appointed Sen. Laphonza Butler to decide if she will enter the 2024 contest for her seat after being picked to complete the remainder of Feinstein’s term.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom installed Butler to fill the vacant post earlier this month, shortly after Feinstein died at 90 following a series of illnesses. The term ends in January 2025.

Butler, a Democratic insider and former labor leader, had never held public office before joining the Senate. She now is considering whether to mount a campaign for a full, six-year term and join a contest that has been underway since January. It already features three prominent Democratic House members — Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee — and Republican Steve Garvey, a former baseball MVP who entered the race Tuesday.

So far, Butler has been coy about her future plans, saying she’s had little time to think about what comes next amid the whirlwind of activity in Washington.

“I’m going to be honest, I’m not considering very much at this point,” she said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

She only hinted at her thinking when interviewed Monday evening at Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women conference in Laguna Niguel.

“It’s an early job for me,” she said, apparently referring to her brief time in Washington. “But my life has been one that has been dedicated to service and that is my commitment.”

Her entry would reshuffle an already complex race in which the candidates are competing for one of two spots in the March 5 primary. Under California election rules, the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the November general election, regardless of party.

In the crowded Senate field, a candidate could advance to November with a relatively small slice of the vote, perhaps as low as 22% or 23%.

To get in, Butler would face a daunting task for even an experienced politician: quickly assemble a campaign team that would include digital strategy and polling, devise a winning message to sell her candidacy to voters who mostly don’t know her and start to raise the millions of dollars she needs for TV advertising in the vast state.

Schiff, for comparison, has a $32 million head start and an endorsement from former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Mail ballots for the primary go out in early February, less than four months away. Many of the state’s top campaign operatives, including those who work for Newsom, already are pledged to other candidates.

“I think it’s doable, but the window is closing,” said Democratic operative Rebecca Pearcey, whose resume includes serving as political director for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. “It’s still a fairly open race.”

But to Democratic consultant Garry South, who has run six statewide campaigns in California, including for former Gov. Gray Davis, that window for Butler already is closed.

“There is no practical way in a state this big … to get a competitive, viable statewide campaign up and running” in such a tight timeframe, South said. He noted that much of Butler’s time will be consumed by demands of her new job — and the narrow Democratic Senate majority assures there will be pressure to be in Washington for votes. Then she’d face time-sucking flights back to California to campaign.

“I don’t care if you have ‘senator’ in front of your name or not,” South added. “It can’t be done.”

Newsom selected Butler Oct. 1, calling her the kind of candidate he would build “if I had to literally design from my imagination.” She became only the third Black female senator in history, and the first openly LGBTQ+ senator from California.

Prior to being appointed, Butler headed Emily’s List, a national organization that raises money for women candidates who support abortion rights. She also served as a senior adviser to Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm founded by Newsom’s longtime strategists. She briefly worked in the private sector for Airbnb.

Her potential Democratic rivals have offered pleasantries since Butler was appointed.

Lee, who attended Butler’s swearing in celebration, tweeted her congratulations and added, “I am singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate.” Schiff, who also attended the festivities, tweeted his well wishes and said he looked forward to working with her. Porter praised her advocacy for working families and noted the historic importance of the appointment.

Pearcey noted that incumbency comes with its own value, including the ability to stay in the headlines and an in-house publicity operation.

“My recommendation would be to use the power of the office — showing she is delivering for the people of California is how I would start,” Pearcey said. Then, on the campaign side, Butler could talk about Democratic legislative wins and building on Feinstein’s legacy.

In a crowded field in which the Democrats are mostly in agreement on policy, being a fresh face at the Capitol could be an asset with voters exhausted by Washington gridlock and bickering.

“I think that voter apathy toward Congress is going to be a liability” for established lawmakers like Schiff, Lee and Porter, Pearcey said.

In an election season where the economy is a top issue, Butler “has had nothing to do with gas prices and inflation,” she added.

Raising money quickly is always a grind, and television ads can cost $2 million or more for just one week in the Los Angeles market.

A tougher, more sensitive prospect would be competing with Lee, who Black leaders and political activists had urged Newsom to appoint to the seat. California has a relatively small Black population at 6%, but those voters make up a core constituency for the Democratic Party.

“They occupy the same space,” Pearcey said, doubting that Butler would run attack ads against the long-serving congresswoman who is revered in the Black community.

A memo from Lee’s campaign to her finance council late last month, before Feinstein’s death and based on internal voter research, found awareness of the race was “extremely low” and candidates remained largely unknown to many voters. It concluded in part that Lee needed to accelerate her fundraising to reach voters who would be receptive to her candidacy, after trailing Schiff and Porter in the money race thus far.

National Democratic fundraising could pose a challenge in 2024, since the California Senate seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands when control of the chamber will be decided elsewhere.

Butler has until Dec. 8 to decide if she’ll enter the contest.

United States News

Associated Press

Winter weather in Pacific Northwest cuts power to thousands in Seattle, dumps snow on Cascades

SEATTLE (AP) — Winter weather brought high winds and snow to parts of the Pacific Northwest, knocking out power in some areas and dumping fresh snow across the Cascade Range. Thousands of households were without power Saturday morning in the greater Seattle area after a night of rain and wind, the Seattle Times reported. Seattle […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Group of swing state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance

CHICAGO (AP) — Muslim community leaders from several swing states pledged to withdraw support for U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday at a conference in suburban Detroit, citing his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could cost him […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Sheriff says Alabama family’s pet ‘wolf-hybrid’ killed their 3-month-old boy

CHELSEA, Ala. (AP) — A 3-month-old boy was killed as his parents tried to rescue the baby from the family pet, a hybrid animal that was part dog, part wolf, authorities said. The boy had been bitten but was alive when first responders arrived shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday at the home in Chelsea. He […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Vermont day care provider convicted of causing infant’s death with doses of antihistamine

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A child care provider accused of sedating an infant with an antihistamine was convicted of manslaughter, and faces up to 25 years in prison when she’s sentenced. A jury on Friday convicted of Stacey Vaillancourt of manslaughter and child cruelty in the 2019 death of Harper Rose Briar in Vaillancourt’s home […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

West Virginia prison inmate indicted on murder charge in missing daughter’s death

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia prison inmate whose infant daughter has been missing for more than two years has been indicted on murder and other charges, authorities said. A grand jury in Cabell County indicted Shannon Patrick Overstreet on charges of murder; death of a child by a parent by child abuse, and […]

6 hours ago

FILE - White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi attends a speech by President Joe Biden about supply c...

Associated Press

Biden rule aims to reduce methane emissions, targeting US oil and gas industry for global warming

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Saturday issued a final rule aimed at reducing methane emissions, targeting the U.S. oil and natural gas industry for its role in global warming as President Joe Biden seeks to advance his climate legacy. The Environmental Protection Agency said the new rule will sharply reduce methane and other […]

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

...

Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

To run or not to run? New California senator faces tough decision on whether to enter 2024 campaign