A day after announcing she would seek a sixth term in office, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said at a Tuesday fundraiser that she had considered retiring but decided that she just couldn’t because of President Trump.
"Let me be very candid with you. I thought about not doing this," Feinstein said at the evening gathering of some of Los Angeles' top civic leaders and philanthropists. "I thought, well, maybe I've been there long enough. Maybe I should just walk away. I could actually have a pretty good life, and I’ve worked all my life. Maybe it's time."
But the 84-year-old Democrat – first elected in 1992 and one of the wealthiest members of Congress -- said the actions of Trump, from his statements about North Korea and Iran to his controversial tweets, persuaded her to seek another term because she believes her relationships and knowledge of the inner workings of the nation's capital are critical for Democrats as they try to negotiate this president's tenure.
"Seniority matters," she said, noting her positions on the judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees.
Feinstein spoke poolside at philanthropist Erika Glazer's Beverly Hills home, in an expansive Moroccan-style yard dotted with tall palm trees wrapped in twinkling white lights, a home once owned by Kennedy family patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy.
About 60 people donated up to $5,400 to attend, sipping wine and nibbling charcuterie and exotic fruits. Feinstein spoke briefly and spent much of her time mingling with the well-heeled crowd, which included philanthropist Eli Broad.
Those in attendance included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner, former Paramount Pictures Chief Executive Sherry Lansing, and Rick Jacobs, a prominent Democratic fundraiser and the founder of the Courage Campaign.
Feinstein is among the most popular politicians in California, but recent polling has hinted that voters might be open to someone new in the Senate. There is also opposition from some of the party’s most liberal members who argue that Feinstein’s values are no longer progressive enough to represent the state that has positioned itself as the liberal resistance to the president.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León is among the Democrats who could be considering a challenge to Feinstein in next year's statewide primary.
Outside the fundraiser, a couple of dozen protesters criticized Feinstein her for not supporting single-payer healthcare, chanting, "People over profits," and "Compassion over corporations."
Lucas Reilly, a 21-year-old UCLA student, held a sign that said, "Retire Dianne the DINO," an acronym standing for "Democrat in Name Only" -- a twist on an insult Republicans usually deliver to members of their party -- RINOs -- who aren't seen as being conservative enough.
"She is the senator of one of the bluest states in this country and she can't take a firm stand on single-payer," Reilly said. "If she can't do this, she needs to retire."
Glazer, the daughter of the late shopping mall magnate Guilford Glazer, said she was sympathetic to those concerns but the top priority right now is keeping an experienced, steady hand in the Senate.
"I want to see her there. I also want to see her mentoring women" who could be her successors, Glazer said. "Having Democrats protest Democrats is not good policy. We don't need contention. There are enough issues."
Garcetti, who introduced Feinstein, was more jugular in his description of any potential Democratic challenger to Feinstein.
“This cannibalistic approach, that somehow we should be at each other’s throats right now … is wrong for Democrats and what California should be doing right now,” Garcetti said, ticking off Trump policies that the state needed to fight, such as a tax reform that could disadvantage large states and the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "We have a lot of work to do."
Feinstein didn’t explicitly mention a potential challenger, but swatted at politicians whom she described as more talk than action and contrasted that with her reputation as a skilled cross-party negotiator.
"It's my way of working to make whatever we do meaningful," she said. "You can stand up in this arena … and pound your chest and you don't get anything done. You need to work with people."