California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler as a replacement for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein late Sunday night. She will serve as the temporary senator for the Golden State until someone is elected to the position next year.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault,” Newsom said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein dies at age 90

“Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”

Butler has served as president of EMILY’s List, a U.S. political action committee that helps elect Democratic women who are in favor of abortion rights, since 2021.

But critics of Newsom’s pick allege that Butler isn’t even a registered California voter.

Does Laphonza Butler live in Maryland?

Fox News reported that Butler’s social media profile on X, formerly known as Twitter, previously listed her location as Maryland. Her account has been updated since Newsom’s announcement.

The report added that a Federal Election Commission filing from EMILY’s List revealed that Butler resided in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2023.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California, criticized Newsom’s choice, saying, “If Gavin Newsom wants to appoint a senator from California, maybe he could have made sure to find one who lives in California?”

In a separate post, he said: “So many Californians have left the state during Gavin Newsom’s time in office, he had to go to Maryland to find our next senator.”

His GOP colleague, Rep. Kevin Kiley, who also represents the Golden State, said that he is willing to work with Butler.

“But the Senate has an obligation to carefully assess whether Ms. Butler, a Maryland voter, meets the residency requirements in Article I of the Constitution,” he added.

Kiley referred to the clause that says in order for someone to be eligible for a Senate seat, they must be 30 years of age, a U.S. resident for at least nine years and live in the state they represent.

Newsom’s office said Monday Butler has reregistered to vote in California.

Who is Laphonza Butler?

In response to her appointment, Butler said on X that she was honored to accept the “nomination to be U.S. Senator for a state I have made my home.”

Before leading an abortion rights political committee, Butler worked for California’s largest labor union, the Service Employees International Union, for roughly 15 years, a majority of it spent as the president.

Her deep union roots and her work on abortion rights led her to become a Democratic strategist and adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Butler would also be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate. She and her wife Neneki Lee share a daughter together, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Still, some have leveled criticism at Butler for having a soft spot for Big Tech, which includes her yearlong stint as the director of Airbnb and her work representing Uber against the California bill that seeks to give the contract drivers employee status.

Butler said that she may not live up to the legacy of her predecessor but she will try her best to honor it by working for women, union workers, struggling parents and the state of California, adding: “I am ready to serve.”

Feinstein, 90, made history by not only being the first woman in the Senate from California but also was the oldest sitting U.S. senator. Upon her passing last week, Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney called her “a giant of the Senate,” and Sen. Mike Lee said, “her storied career was matched by her kindness, even for those with whom she often disagreed,” as the Deseret News reported.

Can Laphonza Butler run for the Senate in 2024?

California scheduled its primary for the Senate for March 5. The New York Times reported that Butler’s temporary appointment does not stop her from running in next year’s race.

Should she decide to run, she will have the advantage of already serving in the role but she may be behind in fundraising.

Who else is running for Senate in California?

The other notable Democratic candidates vying for Senate include:

Although the Black Caucus previously endorsed Lee as a pick for the U.S. Senate — Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nevada, the chairman, wrote a letter to Newsom a day before the governor announced his pick, urging him to choose Lee — they issued a statement celebrating Butler, who they said also has an important perspective to bring to the table.

Newsom, who is mourning the loss of his mentor and lifelong friend, Feinstein, said he is certain Butler will “continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington.”

Butler is expected to be sworn in by Harris on Wednesday.