Capitol Alert

How Kevin de León’s big endorsement helps his underdog campaign against Dianne Feinstein

Kevin de León earned more than bragging rights when the California Democratic Party endorsed him over Dianne Feinstein this weekend. The party’s bruising rebuke of the 26-year incumbent gives her underdog challenger in the U.S. Senate race a slot on party mailers and a potential fundraising boost.

“As an endorsed candidate, he will appear on our slate card and any mailers we do promoting the statewide ticket,” said John Vigna, a spokesman for the California Democratic Party. “We will also be able to send out fundraising requests for him and other online support, and he will appear on the statewide voter guide from the Secretary of State as the official candidate of the CDP.”

But the nod does not mean the party automatically writes him a check for millions of dollars.

As a Democrat-on-Democrat race, the U.S. Senate contest falls outside the party’s top priority of “defeating Republicans in the fall,” Vigna added.

De León’s campaign hopes the endorsement may help him persuade hesitant donors to open up their wallets. Feinstein had $7 million in the bank in her last campaign finance report before the primary, while de León had just $694,000.

Campaign aides also argue that backing from the party’s dedicated activists could help swing undecided voters in his direction. The endorsement also made news nationally, giving de León additional exposure.

“For the first time in 25 years, there is an energy and excitement amongst the party’s grassroots to elect someone who will represent the values of Californians in the United States Senate, and there are voters who look to the California Democratic Party for guidance before they vote,” said Jonathan Underland, a spokesman for de León.

Feinstein’s campaign disregarded the endorsement and said it would have no material influence on the race. They sent out a campaign email Sunday morning with a subject line of “yesterday doesn’t change this” that highlighted her endorsements from Barack Obama and Jerry Brown. Another email distributed hours later called her the “right choice” for California and touted support from Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List.

Andrew Acosta, a Sacramento-based Democratic political consultant, doubts the endorsement is a game-changer for de León, who Feinstein beat by more than 30 points in the June primary.

“Any campaign would take it, but that’s not the path to victory to get your name on a slate mailer,” Acosta said. “He’s got a very long road to go. “

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