It's a big stumbling block to Laphonza Butler's appointment to the seat of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., but it's embarrassing to California Gov. Gavin Newsom: His choice of the Emily's List president was followed by reports she's a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland.
As soon as word went out Sunday night that Newsom would name Butler — past president of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) California and, once sworn in, the second openly gay woman to serve in the Senate — several reports emerged that her home is in the Washington D.C., suburb of Silver Spring.
Butler insisted that she has a home in California and, as a longtime political adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, she is well connected in the state.
The Butler flap calls to mind, among political reporters of a certain age, the last time a Democrat governor of California state filled a Senate vacancy.
That was on July 30, 1964, after the death of ailing Democrat Sen. Clair Engle. A week later, then-Gov. Edmund "Pat" Brown, a Democrat and father of four-term Gov. Jerry Brown, appointed the winner of the Democrat primary for Engle's seat: Pierre Salinger, famed as press secretary to President John F. Kennedy.
But opponents soon discovered that Salinger was a resident of Northern Virginia. Republicans gleefully challenged in court his legal residency and right to serve in the Senate.
Salinger won in court but the issue of residency clearly hurt him in the fall. Republican George Murphy, former actor and song-and-dance man, defeated him in the only Senate race Democrats lost in the very Democratic year of 1964.
The embarrassing disclosure of Butler's residency aside, there is a major difference between her appointment today and that of Salinger in 1964. She will only serve out the remaining 14 months of Feinstein's term and not try to seek a full term, as Salinger did unsuccessfully.
So the residency of soon-to-be Sen. Butler will not be the issue it was for Sen. Salinger 59 years ago. But it is nonetheless embarrassing to the governor who appointed her.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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