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Senate candidates facing off in first event since Butler pick



California has a new senator, but she’s won’t be onstage this Sunday with three of the Democratic candidates vying in the 2024 race to serve a full term in Congress’ upper chamber.

It was a week of tectonic shifts in California politics. But a candidate forum Sunday that includes Reps. Adam B. Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee means that the work of campaigning was falling back into a normal cadence.

The three rivals will each aim to convince a major union of healthcare workers that they’re the best person to succeed Laphonza Butler— who was appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to finish the term of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers has 17,000 members in California, and immediately after the forum concludes, they’ll vote to decide which candidate to endorse. That choice will be announced Wednesday. (Watch a livestream of the event at YouTube.com/@RollCall).

“We’re thrilled to be hosting a forum with the leading candidates for U.S. Senate so that our members will understand exactly where they stand on issues that matter most to them including health care, mental health parity and workers’ rights,” union President Sal Rosselli said in a news release on the event. “This forum is an opportunity for NUHW members to hear from the candidates firsthand, and … reporters can pose questions on the minds of voters across the state.”

The union invited Butler to participate, but a spokesman for the senator said she’d be in Washington, D.C., this weekend. On Friday she attended a fundraiser in New York City for Emily’s List — her former employer. The previous day, she was in San Francisco alongside Schiff, Lee and many other elected officials and dignitaries for Feinstein’s funeral, held on the steps of City Hall.

“As I reflect about my journey here at Emily’s List and I think about the opportunity to accept that I will never be able to fill the shoes of Dianne Feinstein, I do get to sit in her seat,” Butler said Friday.

Butler has yet to say whether she will run for a full term next year. Asked by The Times last week, she said: “I have no idea. I genuinely don’t know.”

That has spawned a frenzy among those who had sought to game out a race in which the dynamics once appeared to be relatively set in stone.

Porter and Schiff have been neck and neck in recent public opinion polling. The two candidates who get the most votes in the March primary will go to a runoff in the November 2024 general election.

Due to the huge cost of running campaigns in California and the rapidly approaching filing deadlines, Butler must decide soon whether to run in order to be on the ballot and raise money.

At least one deadline has been pushed back, however. The California Democratic Party had previously given everyone seeking its endorsement in the Senate race until Friday to submit an application.

The party, which endorsed Feinstein’s chief opponent in the 2018 primary, now expects to hear from candidates by Oct. 27.



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