Capitol Alert

No Democratic endorsement for Dianne Feinstein in sixth U.S. Senate campaign

Running for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, Dianne Feinstein will not have the official support of her state party.

Delegates at the California Democratic Party convention on Saturday denied an endorsement to the veteran lawmaker, who received only 37 percent of the nearly 2,800 votes cast. Her principal challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de León, received 54 percent of the vote, just short of the 60 percent threshold to capture the Democratic endorsement.

Feinstein has a long history of encountering political opposition at the California party convention, which draws a much more liberal crowd than the moderate senator. She was famously booed during her 1990 gubernatorial bid for supporting the death penalty, a showdown she later touted in a television ad.

Her political strategist, Bill Carrick, noted that Feinstein did not receive the endorsement then or during her first run for Senate, in a 1992 special election, either.

"She did better yesterday than either of those times," he said.

De León, who is running to her left, was met with far greater enthusiasm throughout the weekend. He could often be spotted in the hallways of the San Diego Convention Center, aggressively campaigning for the endorsement, and during his major address on Saturday, he slammed Feinstein’s record as being hopelessly out of touch with Democratic values.

“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,” he said in a statement, after the results were announced early Sunday morning. “California Democrats are hungry for new leadership that will fight for California values from the front lines, not equivocate on the sidelines.”

Feinstein, nevertheless, leads handily in fundraising and polling.

After announcing his candidacy in mid-October, de León raised about $500,000 by the end of the year. Feinstein raised double that amount during the same period and kicked in $5 million of her own money, giving her nearly $10 million on hand at the start of 2018.

A poll released earlier this month by the Public Policy Institute of California found Feinstein leading among likely voters by nearly 30 points — 46 percent to 17 percent — while nearly two-thirds of respondents had never heard of de León or didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

Carrick rejected the notion that the lack of endorsement changed the dynamics of the race, where Feinstein is in "very strong shape." He said she leads comfortably in polling among all Democrats, while the convention delegates reflect only a highly-involved slice of the party.

"What we've learned since the election of President Donald Trump is that there are no Democratic voters who are not excited," he said.

No endorsements were handed out in several other hotly contested races, including for governor, where four Democratic candidates vied for delegates’ support. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom led the vote with 39 percent, followed by Treasurer John Chiang with 30 percent, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin with 20 percent, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with 9 percent.

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