California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet again displayed his astuteness in the ever-complex game of politics. By making good on his promise to appoint a black woman, Laphonza Butler, to serve the remaining term of the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Newsom has accomplished multiple objectives, setting the stage for his own political ascendancy — especially as speculation around a presidential bid intensifies.
As President Joe Biden’s administration shows signs of strain, owing to his cognitive decline and accumulating allegations of corruption, Newsom is strategically situating himself to be the Democratic Party’s next torchbearer. Unlike Congressman Adam Schiff, Butler brings an array of benefits that could supercharge Newsom’s presidential campaign, significantly bolstering his appeal to key Democratic constituencies.
Congressman Schiff, for his part, recently posted an impressive third-quarter fundraising total of $6.4 million, with $32 million in reserves. But let’s put this into perspective: California’s political landscape is one where statewide races can cost upward of $100 million. In this context, Schiff’s financial arsenal starts to look less formidable.
What makes Butler such a compelling choice for Newsom is her dual affinity with EMILY’s List and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). As the current president of EMILY’s List, the organization’s vast fundraising network becomes a significant asset. EMILY’s List raised over $81 million during the 2020 election cycle alone.
Combine that financial prowess with Butler’s past role as an SEIU labor boss, a union known for its aggressive get-out-the-vote campaigns, and you have a powerhouse appointment that serves multiple strategic goals for Newsom.
Schiff doesn’t offer these advantages to Newsom. If Newsom were to consider his own presidential ambitions — which seems increasingly likely — Schiff brings little to the table. Butler, however, offers invaluable resources. She can help solidify Newsom’s financial and grassroots base, providing him with both the pro-abortion lobby’s money and the SEIU’s manpower, the latter of which is unmatched in its ability to mobilize voters.
This puts Schiff in an interesting predicament. With Newsom’s appointment effectively blocking his Senate pathway, Schiff may decide to take his war chest and double down on securing his House seat. But there’s more: Schiff could invest in other Democratic House races, aiming for a majority in 2024.
This would set the stage for Schiff to possibly run for speaker of the House, especially if Pelosi were to lend her influence in his favor. After all, Pelosi and Schiff are known allies, and Pelosi’s daughter served as Feinstein’s caretaker, a role that was understood to keep Feinstein in office and prevent Newsom from making an appointment that would complicate Schiff’s Senate aspirations.
Newsom’s appointment of Butler is a masterstroke. It not only paves the way for his future presidential campaign but also significantly complicates Schiff’s political trajectory, forcing him to recalibrate his future plans. It’s a multi-layered, calculated move that strengthens Newsom’s influence over two of California’s most impactful political groups.
In a state known for its political dynamism and complexity, Newsom’s latest appointment seems anything but accidental. Instead, it’s another cog in a well-oiled machine, meticulously crafted to serve multiple objectives that secure Newsom’s present and future standing in the political arena.