California Sen. Dianne Feinstein made it official Monday: She’ll run for a sixth term in 2018.
The Democrat’s announcement came amid threats from some progressive Californians who say Feinstein’s moderate nature no longer works for a state facing the brunt of the Trump administration’s goals on healthcare, taxes and other issues. As progressive groups prepare for a primary fight, at least one big-name Democratic opponent has been silent on his potential plans to challenge Feinstein.
She seemed to acknowledge the threats in an email to supporters Monday.
“Experience counts. The ability to get things done counts. And the compassion, vigor, and stamina to make a difference counts,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein is leaning on her record as the first woman to be the ranking Democrat of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and her role on the Senate Intelligence Committee as the reasons she should stay in office. Both committees are investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, and position her as a foil to President Trump.
“I’m immensely proud of my service in the Senate and all I’ve done to help the people of California and the nation. But there’s still so much work left to do … ” Feinstein said on Facebook.
At 84, she is the longest consecutively serving California official and the oldest member of the Senate. After a stint on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and as mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1990. Though she lost to Republican Pete Wilson, the campaign gave her the statewide recognition she needed to win the special election to replace Wilson in the Senate in 1992.
In the decades since, she successfully pushed for an assault weapons ban, helped end the use of certain types of torture by the U.S. government, and led the way on a landmark water storage and conservation bill for California.
Ten people have filed with the Federal Elections Commission to run against Feinstein. But the three Democrats, three Republicans, three independents and one person with the Humane Party have not raised much money. Just one, Pat Harris, has raised more than $100,000, and that was a loan he made to his own campaign.
There has been widespread speculation that heavier hitters — including Senate President Kevin de León, billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer and Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank — have been waiting on Feinstein’s decision in order to decide whether to run for the seat. Feinstein had been coy about her plans for months, saying last spring that she was waiting for family health issues to be resolved before she decided on reelection. Feinstein’s husband received treatment for cancer last summer, and she had a pacemaker installed last winter.
In the hours after her announcement, other potential candidates, such as Secretary of State Alex Padilla, rushed to support her bid. Others, like Steyer, danced around questions about whether they plan to challenge Feinstein in a primary: “We haven't ruled anything out,” he said.
De León, who has pointedly criticized Feinstein as too easy on Trump in recent weeks, largely avoided reporters Monday as speculation swirled about whether her announcement was intended to head off a De León primary challenge.
Feinstein’s email announcement to supporters Monday stressed the different ways she’s stood up to Trump.
“The challenges to our democracy are many, especially now," Feinstein said. "I cannot and will not step away from this fight."
The wisdom of challenging a long-serving incumbent known as a fundraising juggernaut for Democratswill likely be a consideration of anyone who hopes for a political future in the state Democratic Party.
Many of the state’s prominent Democrats rallied around Feinstein on Monday.
Kamala Harris, the state’s junior senator and a fellow Democrat, sent out a fundraising pitch for Feinstein and endorsed her colleague, saying in a statement, “We are better off with her leadership.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor, said on Twitter, “Sen. Feinstein is a tough-as-nails, thoughtful leader who gets it — and gets it done for us in DC.”
Feinstein has just $3.6 million in the bank, according to her July campaign finance report, a sliver of the $14.8 million she raised in 2012. But she’s been fundraising across the state during the last few months, and new totals are scheduled to be released next week.
Justice Democrats, a group inspired by progressive former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has vowed to find a primary challenger for Feinstein, though it has yet to name a candidate. The only member of Congress who has backed the group, fellow Californian Rep. Ro Khanna, said Feinstein is out of touch, and urged progressive California Democrats to challenge her, a stunning move for a freshman congressman.
“The fact that the establishment is rallying around her reelection shows that D.C. insiders continue to privilege protecting one of their own over the voters' concerns,” Khanna, of Fremont, told Vox.
A recent poll of likely California voters found half said they don't think the senator should run again. But the poll also found that Feinstein remains popular. More than half of likely voters — 54% — approve of the job she’s doing, compared with 38% who disapprove. There were similar findings in a poll taken before she ended up easily beating her 2012 opponent.
With California’s top two primary system, a push from the left could simply force Feinstein into the moderate positions she tends toward anyway and ingratiate her with a broader spectrum of Californians, especially if no viable Republican enters the race.
“I am what I am, I’m pretty well known and people, I assume, will come after me any way they can. That’s up to them,” Feinstein said in an interview, pointing once again to her experience. “If that’s of any value to people I’ll win, if it’s not I won’t.”
Follow @sarahdwire on Twitter
Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics
2:41 p.m.: This article has been updated with more background on Feinstein’s run and details about her potential challengers.
10:55 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with reaction to Feinstein’s announcement and additional details.
This article was originally published at 8:15 a.m.