Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler of California said Thursday that she would not run for a full term next year.
“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,” Butler said in a statement. “After considering those questions I’ve decided not to run for Senate in the upcoming election. Knowing you can win a campaign doesn’t always mean you should run a campaign.”
Butler told The New York Times, which first reported the news, that she would be the “the loudest, proudest champion of California” for the remainder of her term but that “this is not the greatest use of my voice.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler to fill the seat left vacant after the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Butler was sworn in earlier this month and made history as the first out Black lesbian to enter Congress. Butler is also the sole Black female senator currently serving in the chamber and the first out LGBTQ member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Prior to her appointment, Butler served as the president of EMILY’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. She has a long history of working in California politics, including as an adviser to then-Sen. Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.
Butler’s announcement comes as the California Senate race is shaping up to be among the most high-profile 2024 races. The state will hold two Senate elections next November: one for a full six-year term and a special election for the remaining months of Feinstein’s term until January 2025.
Several notable Democrats launched Senate campaigns earlier this year, including a trio of House members: Reps. Adam Schiff, a former House Intelligence chairman who is backed by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Katie Porter, a former deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Barbara Lee, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of House Democratic leadership.
Other Democrats running include tech executive Lexi Reese and TV broadcaster Christina Pascucci, who joined the race this week. On the Republican side, retired baseball star Steve Garvey and lawyer Eric Early have announced bids. As of late September, Porter and Schiff led the pack in fundraising, with more than $20 million in contributions each.
Under California’s primary system, all candidates will run on the same ballot, with the top two candidates, regardless of party, advancing to the general election.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.