Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't moving to the left for politics' sake as she runs for re-election, she said Thursday during a stop in Sacramento. Instead, the six-term senator explained her changing views on issues like the death penalty and recreational marijuana as part of the natural evolution that policymakers go through.
"The world changes and views change and we change," she told reporters during a roundtable downtown.
"You hope to grow and mature and expand your vision in the electoral process and in the process of serving," Feinstein added.
For much of her lengthy political career, first in San Francisco and then the U.S. Senate, Feinstein embraced tough-on-crime policies including the death penalty and the war on drugs. But she told McClatchy earlier this spring that she no longer opposed recreational marijuana, citing California voters' support of an initiative to legalize pot. The law took effect in January.
Just last week, Feinstein revealed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that she had also changed her view on the death penalty "several years ago," but just hasn't been asked about it.
Critics have suggested Feinstein's changes of heart are the result of pressure she's facing from within her own party. California Democrats declined to endorse the 84-year-old senator's re-election bid in February, with a plurality of party delegates instead supporting state Sen. Kevin de León. De León is one of several liberal candidates running to Feinstein's left, emphasizing issues like immigration, climate change, and single-payer health care.
On Thursday afternoon at a roundtable with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, Feinstein said that when it comes to the death penalty, she'd come to realize that "a lot of things go wrong."
"And so the question comes as one gets older, do you feel so militant as you might have at one time?" she said. "It's also an academic process ... as you read various opinions, as you watch various police activities, as you watch case law develop."
As for legal marijuana, Feinstein acknowledged that she is "not a big fan of drugs." However, "the people of California differed and the drug was legalized. Now it's my job to see that it's well regulated so that the public's health is not in any way shape or form hurt."
With California's June 5 primary election looming, Feinstein sought to paint her changing views as a political plus — evidence she's willing to take in new information and adjust her stance accordingly.
"I think that's what should make me an attractive senator, particularly to young people," she said, gesturing to more than a dozen 20- and 30-something women gathered at the roundtable. "I don't want to not grow, I don't want to not learn."