California state lawmaker Kevin de León won second place advancing to the November election against Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate race.
The Los Angeles Democrat had 11 percent of the vote and Republican James Bradley 9 percent – a difference of nearly 100,000 votes. The Associated Press called the race for de León early Wednesday.
His campaign team expects his second place lead to widen as the state continues to report the results of the primary election. Changes to California election law and an increased reliance on voting by mail mean results in close races could take days or weeks to determine.
Feinstein, running for her fifth term, breezed into the top two runoff Tuesday with 44 percent support from voters. The veteran senator maintained a commanding lead from the first poll of likely voters released months before the election.
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Feinstein pledged to stand up for "our values as your United States Senator" and work to "pass legislation important to us in California," in a video statement sent out 35 minutes after the polls closed. The incumbent highlighted universal health care, environmental protection, a federal minimum wage of $15, the impending water crisis and LGBT rights, among others, as key issues in her campaign.
"Together, in this election, we must dedicate ourselves to those values, because they have made California a great state, ending the one-party control of our federal government and moving our nation away from division and polarization," Feinstein said.
De León, the author of the 'sanctuary state' law approved by the Legislature, is running to Feinstein's left with less financial resources and familiarity among voters in California. He has pledged to lead the fight against President Donald Trump over climate change and immigration in Washington.
"My friends, real leadership is doing the right thing even when no one is watching – or running against you in an election," de León told supporters at his election night party in downtown Los Angeles. "I will be the real deal. The leader California demands. The fighter California deserves."
His campaign team says it will contrast his liberal stances against Feinstein's typically more moderate views. Feinstein has flipped her prior opposition to recreational marijuana and the death penalty in recent months.
Bradley, a little-known Laguna Niguel Republican who has never held any office, rose above a slew of GOP candidates to surprise the field in early polls this year. He promised to work to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law and end sanctuary jurisdictions if elected.