In Fresno, Sen. Butler Calls Cynicism Among the Young ‘Greatest Threat to Our Democracy’ - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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In Fresno, Sen. Butler Calls Cynicism Among the Young ‘Greatest Threat to Our Democracy’

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U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler, D-California, speaks to an audience at Fresno City College's West Campus, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)
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Laphonza Butler knows her term representing California in the U.S. Senate is short.

“I know I’m not going to be in the Senate for a long time, but I am going to be there for a good time. And I invite all of you to be on this good time ride with me,” Butler, D-California told a mostly student audience in Fresno last Friday, adding that she wants to make the most of it.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Butler on Oct. 1, 2023, to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Dianne Feinstein. Butler opted not to run for re-election, meaning the winner of a special election on Nov. 5 will serve the remainder of the seat until Jan. 3, 2025.

Meanwhile, three prominent Democrats in the House of Representatives and former baseball star Steve Garvey, a Republican, are running for the permanent seat.

Speaking at the new Fresno City College West Campus, Butler, a former advisor to Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign, shared her inspirational life story.

She grew up in a one-stoplight Mississippi town, she said. Only to emerge as a political activist, key political player, and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the U.S. Senate. Today, she is the only Black woman serving in that chamber.

“No matter where you come from or what your start in life might be, you too can be a United States senator from the great state of California,” Butler said.

Butler called cynicism of government on college and high school campuses “the greatest threat to our democracy.”

Butler met earlier on Friday with ag and water leaders at the Fresno County Farm Bureau, an event also attended by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. Before her FCC event, she met with Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, and SCCCD Chancellor Carole Goldsmith.

Criticizes Trump, Appears Uninformed on Reedley Lab, Bitwise

During her speech at FCC, Butler advocated for reforming DACA renewals — the every-other-year process for immigrants with legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She said having to renew that often, currently at $495, is too much.

Asked about the border, she said it is a “challenge that we need to solve.”

“I think it’s great that the president is continuing to lead and try to get to some real solution. I think it’s a real shame, that the other person who’s running for president would ask us not to find a resolution because he wants to run on it as a campaign. I think President Biden has made it clear that this is a challenge that we need to solve, and I look forward to solving it with them at the center,” Butler said.

Asked for specifics on her plan, she said “we’ll figure out those solutions,” during negotiations between the Senate and Biden.

Butler did not have response when asked about the illegal Chinese-connected biolab discovered in Reedley in late 2022. She said she did not have all the details.

She knew less about Bitwise, the Fresno company that collapsed last year amid fraud accusations against its now-former CEOs. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, and the CEOs — Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. — face federal fraud charges.

“A what-wise question?” Butler said.

Butler: No Endorsement for Successor

Butler explained her decision not to run for re-election.

“I don’t want to be a United States Senator beyond the time that I’ve agreed to serve,” Butler said.

She is not making an endorsement among the three top-polling Democrats running for the seat: Congressmembers Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Katie Porter, D-Irvine; and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

“I want to actually focus on executing this job incredibly as well as I can in this short period of time that I have, meeting with Californians and talking up learning and talking about what is important to them,” Butler said. “I think that the candidates that are running are all three of them are incredibly strong, and they’ve got some work to do to earn the trust and votes of Californians. And I look forward to seeing them do that.”

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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