U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California announced Monday that she will seek a fifth full term next year, ending months of speculation as a growing stable of possible Democratic successors sat in waiting.
“I am running for reelection to the Senate,” Feinstein, who would be 85 when sworn in for another six-year term, wrote on Twitter. “Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare. I’m all in!”
Should Feinstein, a Democrat, win and remain in her seat through 2021, she would become the longest-serving senator in California history, passing Hiram Johnson, who served 28 years starting in 1917.
Feinstein has been showing all the signs of another run in 2018, holding fundraisers and town hall meetings, and remaining an integral figure in Congress on gun-control and through her judiciary and intelligence committee posts. But pressure from her left has intensified of late.
She has raised millions for her re-election, and her personal fortune gives her access to millions more should she need it. A new website accompanying her announcement contends that “It’s more critical than ever” to have her in the Senate, where she offers “common sense solutions.”
“Dianne’s career has been one of firsts – she was the first woman President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the first woman mayor of San Francisco, the first woman elected Senator of California, and the first woman member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” the statement says. “She’s continuing her record of public service in the Senate, working on critical issues and the fight for the values we hold dear.”
Speculation that she would not run again had persisted, as liberal activists turned out to protest outside her San Francisco home and at events where she was speaking and raising money. A poll last month found her job approval rating dropping to 50 percent, down from 59 percent less than six months before. Even fewer, 45 percent, said they were inclined to support her in a 2018 re-election bid. In April, 56 percent of voters said they were ready to back her, the survey by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found.
The prospect of her retirement fanned the political ambitions of a new generation of California Democratic officeholders: California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank.
Garcetti has repeatedly praised the work of Feinstein, saying he hoped she would run again. He is endorsing her candidacy and holding a fundraiser for her Tuesday in Beverly Hills. On Monday, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor next year, also lent his support. Padilla wrote on Twitter that she has delivered for California. “At a time when so much we hold dear is under attack, we need her in the US Senate. I stand with her.”
With Feinstein in, the question becomes whether anyone else challenges her. The likeliest may be de León, who is termed out of the state Senate and has questioned her calls for patience with President Donald Trump. De León was being courted Monday by the likes of Markos Moulitsas of the liberal Daily Kos, who said he shares a “common interest in this Senate race.”
“Let’s beat the most pro-Trump Blue-state Dem in the country!” Moulitsas said.
Joe Sanberg, a wealthy investor considering a Senate run, said the state needs more representatives in Washington willing to lead the resistance to Trump.
“California deserves a bold progressive fighter who will stand up to Trump – bullies like Trump are defeated by courage, not patience,” he said, in a reference to Feinstein’s plea for patience with Trump in August.
In an interview in Sacramento, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, who has not ruled out a run of his own, said he would be making an announcement on the race “pretty soon.”
“I am focused on … what is going to make the biggest differential impact,” he told The Bee. “And that’s exactly how I see it.”
With the chance of a tough campaign, Feinstein’s Senate colleague, Democrat Kamala Harris, released a statement early Monday reiterating her support, which she followed with a fundraising pitch.
“What Californians get from Dianne is someone who sticks to her principles and achieves results regardless of powerful opponents, from the assault weapons ban to the CIA torture report,” Harris said. “We are better off with her leadership and I look forward to continuing to fight together for California in the Senate.”