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Rep. Barbara Lee jumps into California Senate race

13-term Democrat will face fellow Reps. Porter and Schiff

Rep. Barbara Lee has announced she will run for Senate next year.
Rep. Barbara Lee has announced she will run for Senate next year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Barbara Lee officially entered the 2024 California Senate race Tuesday, joining two Democratic House colleagues in what will be a competitive election to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein

“No one is rolling out the welcome mat, especially for someone like me. I was the girl they didn’t allow in,” Lee said in a video announcing her campaign that talked about facing racial discrimination, having an abortion, and being a homeless and single mother after leaving a violent marriage. 

“They didn’t want to hear my voice or anyone who wasn’t like them. But by the grace of God, I didn’t let that stop me,” Lee said.

Lee, 76, joins fellow Reps. Adam B. Schiff, 62, and Katie Porter, 49, in seeking the seat. Under California law, the top two vote-getters in the all-party primary advance to the general election, so two Democrats could face each other in November 2024.

“For those who say my time has passed, well, when does making change go out of style?” Lee said in her announcement video.

She also noted that there are currently no Black women in the Senate after Vice President Kamala Harris resigned her seat representing California in 2021 and was replaced by Alex Padilla

Trails in fundraising

Lee enters the race trailing both Schiff and Porter in fundraising. Lee ended 2022 with $52,000 in her House campaign account, while Schiff had $20.9 million on hand and Porter had $7.4 million. 

A longtime liberal in her 13th full term, Lee was the only member of the House to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She has pushed for legislation to repeal the 2001 and 2002 military authorizations. 

Another legislative priority has been HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programs. She authored the legislative frameworks for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Collective PAC, which supports Black political engagement and representation, said it was endorsing Lee on Tuesday. 

“Electing a Black woman to the U.S. Senate this cycle remains a top organizational priority and we are proud to stand with a fearless and experienced champion for social justice like Rep. Barbara Lee,” Quentin James and Stefanie Brown James, the group’s founders, said in a statement.

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