Q&A: Feinstein and De León on priorities, diversity and what they’d like to ask each other

State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

The Times asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Kevin de León to answer several questions specific to their experiences and goals.

It follows a similar questionnaire, which can be read here, asking the two candidates for U.S. Senate to respond to the same questions. The Times also asked each candidate what question they would ask of the other.

The questions were asked before the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and vote in the Senate; answers were edited for length.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif) holds a town hall meeting at First AME Church in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

You’ve been a pioneering political figure. But what do you say to those eager for a fresh perspective?

Representing Californians has been the honor of my life, and I’m not done working for them. I can be more effective than my opponent in defending our state from President Trump’s attacks. After winning the primary by 2 million votes, I’m proud that Californians have placed their trust in me.

Will you commit to serving the entire six-year term?


What would be your top three legislative priorities if Californians return you to Washington?

Universal healthcare, comprehensive immigration reform and reducing gun violence.

Your staff is 32% nonwhite, which does not represent California’s diversity. What measures do you currently have in place to make sure you are hiring from a diverse pool ?

I always strive to ensure my staff is diverse and represents all of California. My current legislative director is one of just three African Americans to hold that position and my most recent chief of staff was one of only two Democratic Latino chiefs of staff.

You’ve talked about your seniority as a benefit to the state; your opponent says you haven’t used it enough. How, specifically, is seniority a benefit, especially if Democrats don’t control the Senate?

Seniority is important. I’m leading the fight against dangerous Trump nominees. I’ve secured hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade transportation and water infrastructure, including the L.A. Metro system. And just this summer I secured seven C-130 planes for Cal Fire. I know how to get things done.

De León’s question for Feinstein: Brett Kavanaugh, if confirmed to the Supreme Court, is likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Do you regret voting “yes” in 2006 to allow his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals go to a vote on the Senate floor?

I voted against Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee [in 2006] and when his nomination was before the Senate. I joined then-Sens. Obama and Biden to support a compromise that preserved Democrats’ ability to block extreme right-wing judges using the filibuster.

Where Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Kevin de Leon stand on the issues »


State Sen. Kevin de León

California state Sen. Kevin de León
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

If elected, which Senate committees would you ask to serve on?

Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; and either Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; or Foreign Relations. I believe those committees wield influence over policy spheres that will directly affect whether hard-working Californians have the fresh air, clean water, and access to opportunity that they need to thrive.

What legislation do you intend to file in your first year?

My first day in the Senate, I will cosponsor the Medicare For All act. I’ll seek to move comprehensive immigration reform. I will lay out a National Clean Energy Plan. I’ll do everything in my power to dismantle Trump’s tax plan.

Senate staffs are historically overwhelmingly white. Will you commit to having a staff that reflects the diversity of California?

It is personally important to me to not only grow the ranks of Latino leaders in public, private and nonprofit sectors, but to make sure everyone has a seat at the table. I believe in inclusivity — not just diversity.

Some have insinuated you are running against Feinstein because of her age. What do you say to that? Do you support term limits or age limits for U.S. senators?

How long someone holds elected office shouldn’t be set as an arbitrary number of years, it should be based on how effective we are at representing our constituents. Therefore, neither age nor length of time in service is relevant to any campaign. Instead, it is about the values we each stand for, and the core issues we will champion for Californians. I am running for U.S. Senate because I believe my current representative no longer stands up for the values Californians hold today.

How do you propose paying for healthcare under a government-run Medicare-for-all system?

A Medicare-for-all system is the only way to get healthcare costs under control. Switching to this system will save billions in administrative costs, give us the power to finally hold the drug companies accountable, and squeeze other savings out of the system. Americans are already paying for the cost of a single-payer system, but see none of the benefits in return. In California I led the fight for Medicare-for-all, and in Washington I will do the same. Getting it done won’t be easy, but taking on special interests never is.


Feinstein’s question for De León: In Sacramento, Democrats enjoy huge majorities in the Legislature. But that’s not the case in Washington. What are some examples of what you’d achieve if you were in the minority and confronted by an intransigent Republican president?

If elected, I will fight for what I believe is right, no matter who the president is and regardless of which party maintains control of the legislative branch. As Democrats in the minority, I do not believe we ought to resign ourselves to the minority. I will not go along to get along. I will fight back on every single judicial nominee.

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