Women voters are key to the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday as she stumped in Sacramento, including at a luncheon for a group of women Democrats.
Feinstein first took office in 1992 in what was declared the “Year of the Woman.” While she’s reluctant to draw comparisons to the upcoming election, she thinks women could again play a decisive role .
“They can have a very big impact,” Feinstein told reporters Thursday, following an afternoon briefing on wildfires at McClellan Park. “If women vote, they will decide.”
Democrats face major hurdles implementing their policy goals, given Republican control of Congress, the White House and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. Election forecasts suggest Democrats have a better than 80 percent chance to regain control of the House while Republicans are almost certain to maintain their majority in the Senate.
Feinstein said flipping one chamber of Congress could force the Republicans to come to the negotiating table more often.
“If you break that lock, even with one house, you change the dynamic,” Feinstein said. “You can mix things up. … I think it brings about more conciliation.”
If she gets re-elected on Nov. 6, she said she will work to build consensus on immigration.
The plan she is drafting with her colleagues in the Senate Judiciary Committee would offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and certain farm workers, prohibit the separation of children from their parents at the border and place a 20-day limit on children being detained in U.S. custody.
“We clearly need to involve the House early on, in both political parties, to see that there is support for immigration reform,” she said. “It’s long overdue.”
Earlier in the day, Feinstein spoke to around 200 supporters at a luncheon for Women Democrats of Sacramento County. She stressed the importance of involving more women in the political process.
Before she arrived in 1992, there were just two women senators.
“When I ran, I used to say, ‘Two percent may be good for the fat content of milk, but it isn’t for a woman’s participation in the Senate of the United States.’”
Now, there are 23 women serving in the Senate. With Feinstein’s 1992 victory and that of former Sen. Barbara Boxer the same year, California became the first state in the country to be represented by two female senators. Feinstein hopes the number of women in elected office will only continue to grow.
She told one attendee the best way for women to enter the political arena is through local office.
“If it’s a school board, town council, board of supervisors, women should try for that,” she said. “Don’t be shy. Put yourself in a position to be a leader of that board.”
Feinstein is expected to defeat Kevin de León, her Democratic challenger on Tuesday. This is her first time competing against a Democrat under California’s top-two primary system — which Californians adopted through a 2010 ballot measure. She insists the new system “is not that much different,” but joked she’s “glad the campaign’s over in five days.”