Butler went to Jackson State University in the state’s capital, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science.
After college, she organized workers in Maryland, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut before moving to California in 2009. For about 10 years she served as president of Local 2015 of the Service Employees International Union, the largest union in the state and the largest union of long-term care workers in the country, according to her online biography published when then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the board of regents of the state university system in 2018.
After leaving the union in 2018, she became a political consultant. She was a senior adviser of then-Senator Harris during Harris’ failed run for president in 2020.
Butler also advised Uber — which drew fire from some former allies, who see Uber as an exploiter of independent contractors. In 2020 she joined Airbnb before becoming head of EMILY’s List in September 2021.
Butler has a female partner — some sources say they are civilly married — and a daughter in third grade.
She signs off text messages: “In solidarity.”
In June 2022, on the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Butler appeared on a podcast.
She began by saying she had dropped off her daughter that morning at camp and envisioned what it would be like to pick her up at the end of the day.
“She will have no idea that the thing that is top of mind for me is that she is less free, 12 hours later, than she was when she got on the bus to go to camp. And for so many of us, that is what this moment really means. And that’s what it really communicates, that women and little girls in this country are now second-class citizens, a permanent underclass,” Butler said. “And the little boys in her class can do whatever — can have the freedom to make whatever decision with their body they want. And I think this is a decision that is as much a slap in the face to the majority of women in this country, but it also speaks to the rights and freedoms of men. They should also have a voice in their ability to be able to think about how they want to plan their families and the futures that they want their children to have.”
At times during the interview she emphasized coalition building, calling on listeners to “be empathetic to each other.”
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“Let’s show each other some compassion. This is not a moment for swift judgment about one another’s personal views, one way or the other. This is the moment for America to rise up and be her best. That requires us to listen to each other, even if our views are different,” Butler said.
Here to stay?
Butler hasn’t said whether she’ll run for election to the U.S. Senate in 2024. The state’s open primary (scheduled for March 2024) already has three current Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Adam Schiff, 63; Katie Porter, 49; and Barbara Lee, 77, a Black woman who lobbied hard for the U.S. Senate appointments that went to Padilla and Butler. But recent polls suggest no current candidate has more than 20% support.
“Senator-designee Butler is young, represents key identity groups and constituencies in the party, and has solid left-wing credentials (EMILY’s list and union involvement with SEIU). For these reasons, I think she will quickly become a popular figure in California politics and in national Democratic circles,” Hare told CNA.
“I certainly think she’s a viable Senate candidate in 2024 (especially in a splintered field where the top candidate is garnering less than 20% support in the polls), as this appointment gives her instant visibility and access to fundraising networks,” he said. “She may also decide to play a king- or queen-maker if she chooses, as her endorsement would have considerable weight and a real prize to be fought over by the declared candidates.”
Newsom’s presidential ambitions