California Democrats decline to endorse Feinstein
In a humiliating setback for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democratic Party on Saturday declined to endorse the state’s own senior senator in her bid for reelection, signaling a shift away from moderates at the highest levels of the state political infrastructure.
State Sen. Kevin De León, offering the strongest challenge to Feinstein since her election, garnered 54 percent of the vote of nearly 3,000 delegates gathered here at the state convention, compared to just 37 percent for Feinstein, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Neither candidate reached the 60 percent threshold required to receive the party endorsement for 2018. But the snubbing of Feinstein led de León to claim a victory for his struggling campaign.
The state party endorsement gives candidates coveted placement on state party mailers and can raise the profile of candidates who may have a deficit in fundraising. It’s not like Feinstein has a need to raise her profile in the state, and has plenty of money to get her message out. But denying the party endorsement to a sitting U.S. Senator is a remarkable turn of events for a lawmaker who has represented California in the Senate for over a quarter-century.
“The outcome of today’s endorsement vote is an astounding rejection of politics as usual, and it boosts our campaign’s momentum as we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder against a complacent status quo,” de León said in a prepared statement. “California Democrats are hungry for new leadership that will fight for California values from the front lines, not equivocate on the sidelines.”
“I’m running for the U.S. Senate because the days of Democrats biding our time, biting our tongue, and trying to let it work the margins are over,” he said to cheers, according to the The Times. “I’m running because California’s greatness comes from paths of human audacity, not congressional seniority.”
Feinstein, a centrist Democrat, has long maintained an uneasy relationship with activists who dominate state party conventions, and the vote this weekend — while embarrassing — was not unexpected. But the sharp rebuke appears unlikely to immediately alter the trajectory of a contest Feinstein is leading by a wide margin.
Feinstein is outpolling de León 46 percent to 17 percent among likely California voters, according to the most recent polls. Her financial advantage is even more overwhelming: Feinstein held close to $10 million in cash on hand at the end of last year, while de León reported raising just $500,000.
Addressing the convention Saturday, Feinstein reminded delegates of her experience and what she portrayed as a lifetime of service in the cause of Democratic values.
California Democrats, she said, have “the largest delegation in the House. You’ve got Kamala Harris and me in the Senate.” She said Democrats can more effectively advance their principles “if we have unified support.”
Interrupted in her convention speech Saturday by music signaling her time to speak had run out, Feinstein said, “I guess my time is up.”
“Damn right!” jeered critics in the crowd. “Time’s up!”