De Leon to Challenge Feinstein in California Senate Race

State Senate leader says Democratic incumbent is not liberal enough

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, left, has the support of fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, left, has the support of fellow California Sen. Kamala Harris. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted October 15, 2017 at 1:20pm

State Senate Leader Kevin de Leon announced Sunday this he will challenge incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the California Senate race.

De Leon, 50, is taking on his fellow Democrat for not being liberal enough to represent the solid blue state. In his announcement video, he highlighted his own story as the youngest child of a single immigrant mother. 

He did not mention Feinstein in the video or in an email to supporters. But in the email announcing his campaign, he did reference President Donald Trump.

“Friend, we now stand at the frontlines of a historic struggle for the very soul of America, against a President without one,” de Leon wrote. “Every day, his Administration wages war on our people and our progress.”

Feinstein, 84, announced last week that she would run for a fifth Senate term. She is one of the most senior senators and has touted her seniority as a key asset for California. She is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee. 

But Feinstein has drawn criticism from de Leon in the past. In August, she said people should have some patience with Trump as he dealt with the response to Hurricane Harvey.

De Leon fired back, telling KQED radio in Northern California, “We don’t have much patience for Donald Trump here in California. This president has not shown any capacity to learn and proven he is not fit for office. It is the responsibility of Congress to hold him accountable — especially Democrats — not be complicit in his reckless behavior.”

Moments after De Leon announced his candidacy, the liberal group Democracy for America announced they were endorsing him. The group was founded by former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. 

“We won’t defeat Trump and his Republican Party with corporate Democrats pushing Republican-lite policies and weak leadership,” said Charles Chamberlain, the group’s executive director. “We win when candidates offer a progressive vision for America and fight to make it happen. Kevin de León has proven he will do both and we can’t wait to see him do it in the U.S. Senate.”

De Leon is in his last stint in the state Senate due to term limits. He was first elected to the chamber in 2010 after serving in the state Assembly.

He will face Feinstein in California’s so-called jungle primary, set for June 5. The top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party.

Other Democrats could also jump into the race. Billionaire Tom Steyer has not ruled out a run. Entrepreneur Joseph Sanberg has also considered running for Senate. 

Feinstein does have the support of California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris, who was elected last fall. But Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna has been calling for a Democrat to challenge Feinstein. He argued in an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee earlier this week that Feinstein has been “wrong” on major issues such as the Iraq War, privacy, and single payer health care. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Democrat