Capitol Alert

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer bids activists adieu after nearly 24 years

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is congratulated by supporters at her victory celebration in Los Angeles in 1992.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is congratulated by supporters at her victory celebration in Los Angeles in 1992. The Sacramento Bee

A few weeks before her surprise victory in the 1992 Senate primary, then-Rep. Barbara Boxer took the stage at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles, overcome by the outpouring of enthusiasm for her campaign.

“Wow ... It’s beautiful!” she cried, both hands pressed to her face as the crowd chanted her name.

Boxer was charismatic in her skewering of the Senate, questioning whether members of the upper chamber, then occupied by 98 men and just two women, were “dead, or alive.” “I think they’ve lost the pulse,” she said to laughter and applause.

She pledged to be a voice for people of every color, lifestyle and income level, and to fight offshore drilling of oil. And she mocked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for saying he never discussed Roe v. Wade with his wife. “God, we need some guts in the United States Senate,” she said.

On Saturday, at her last state convention before stepping down from office next year, Boxer thanked the activists gathered in San Jose, beginning with that 1992 election, when the number of women in the Senate tripled from two to six.

“Each time the pundits predicted the end of me,” she said of her subsequent elections in 1998, 2004 and 2010. “But you and I had a different idea ... And it meant the world to me at the darkest moments.”

The speech bookends a political career that has spanned more than four decades, beginning in earnest with with her election to the Marin County Board of Supervisors in 1976.

Boxer said she just finished her memoirs, titled “The Art of Tough,” something she said she learned from her mentor, state Democratic Party Chairman John Burton.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Boxer convention speech if she didn’t criticize Republicans. She ripped presidential front-runner Donald Trump, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

She promised to remain “very active,” and closed with a poem she wrote about her plans, concluding, “as long as there are issues and challenges and strife, I never will retire, because that’s the meaning of my life.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago