U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave her standard answer Wednesday when asked whether she planned to seek re-election when her term comes up in two years: If she can produce for the people of California, “then I will continue to produce,” she said.
“If I believe I can’t, either by health or any other way, I won’t,” she added.
Then, the 83-year-old Feinstein engaged in a little back-and-forth with the reporter where she seemed to indicate a preference for running in 2018, a move that would delay or shift the electoral aspirations of a new generation of California leaders.
“To me it sounds like you are ready to run for re-election,” KQED’s Scott Shafer said in a brief clip of his interview from Washington, which he posted online.
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“Well, that’s sort of true,” Feinstein responded.
“And, you’ll make it formal next year?” Shafer asked, amid some crosstalk with Feinstein.
“And I will make it formal at an appropriate time,” she answered.
Feinstein’s future has made for an amusing, yet increasingly repetitive political parlor game of sorts for politicos here and in Washington, with each comment and move scrutinized for evidence. When was her last fundraiser? How much is she raising? What do her committee shifts mean? How is her health?
Last week, Feinstein’s office announced she had a pacemaker installed out of an “abundance of caution.” The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein had been present for most of the first day of confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general. She worked from home Wednesday, but was back on Capitol Hill the following day to resume her tough questioning of the nominee for CIA director.
Feinstein’s office pointed to her initial answer Wednesday to indicate she has not made a decision, but her later remarks will be parsed in every way imaginable given the pile-up of rising Democrats potentially interested in her seat (the state’s other Senate seat was won by former Attorney General Kamala Harris in a fall landslide over a fellow Democrat).
Among the top prospects to succeed Feinstein are Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, billionaire environmental activist and mega-donor Tom Steyer and Senate leader Kevin de León. Garcetti, Steyer and de León are also frequently mentioned as possible candidates to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, when the veteran Democratic leader must leave because of term limits.
A Feinstein re-election run would further crowd a sizable field that already includes former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang and ex-state schools chief Delaine Eastin. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, has yet to express interest personally, but is being urged to run as the standard-bearer for his weakened party.