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Half of California's likely voters think Sen. Dianne Feinstein should retire, poll finds

 (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein contemplates a 2018 bid for reelection, a new poll has found that 50% of California’s likely voters think she shouldn’t run again.

Just 43% of likely voters support Feinstein running for a sixth term, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday. The results are similar among all California adults, not just likely voters, with 46% saying she should not run for another term and 41% saying she should run.

Feinstein, 84, has come under increased pressure from members of California’s left, many of whom were infuriated when earlier this month she called for “patience” with President Trump and refused to back demands for his impeachment.

Still, the poll found that Feinstein remains popular. More than half of likely voters — 54% — approve of the job she’s doing, compared with 38% who disapprove.

That’s on par with Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating, and it bests the marks for California’s other Democratic senator, Kamala Harris. When likely voters were asked about Harris, the former state attorney general elected to the Senate in November, 47% approved of the job she was doing in Washington and 30% disapproved. Almost a quarter of voters didn’t offer an opinion about Harris.

The contrasting results on Feinstein are difficult to decipher but at the very least indicate voters remain restless.

“Partly, this is a holdover from last year’s election in which you saw many Democrats wanting a more liberal alternative at the presidential level and you saw many independents wanting an outsider,” said Mark Baldassare, president of Public Policy Institute of California. “As people are looking to next year, there’s a desire for something new.”

Speculation continues that Feinstein may face a Democratic challenger. Among those who have been mentioned is state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who is weighing his next political move after he terms out of office in 2018. De León lashed out at Feinstein after her comments about Trump in early September.

In her last election, Feinstein trounced her Republican opponent, Elizabeth Emken, by a 25-percentage-point margin in 2012. She won by almost an identical margin in 2006 when challenged by former Republican state Sen. Richard Mountjoy.

However, California has since switched to a top-two primary system. The two candidates who receive the most voters in the June primary election will advance to the 2018 general election, regardless of their party.

Two Democrats faced off in the finale of California's 2016 U.S. Senate election, with Harris besting then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez. 

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