DemDaily: The Race To Replace Feinstein

February 15, 2023

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Grand Dame of the US Senate, announced her retirement yesterday, officially opening the floodgates to candidates in what promises to be one of 2024's most competitive and costly Senate races.

Feinstein was first elected to the upper chamber in a 1992 special election to complete the unexpired term of Republican Pete Wilson, who resigned to become Governor of California. She had previously served as Mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988.

The first woman to represent the country's most populous state, the tenacious, trailblazing Democrat rose to Chair the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. At 89, Feinstein is the longest-serving woman in US Senate history.

California is one of 34 US Senate seats up for election in 2024, 23 of which are being defended by Democrats. A safely blue state that Joe Biden won by 30 points in 2020, California uses a blanket primary system. The top-two vote-getters from the March 5 primary, where candidates of all parties run at once, will advance to the general election November 5, 2024.

In advance of Feinstein's decision, progressive Congresswoman Katie Porter (D) became the first to announce her bid for the seat on January 10, saying, “It’s time for new leadership in the U.S. Senate” and “California needs a warrior in the Senate" to stand up to special interests.

Porter, 49, is in her third term, representing California's Orange County-based 47th Congressional District. The current Deputy Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Porter has the endorsement of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), her former Harvard Law School professor.

Twelve-term San Gabriel Valley Congressman Adam Schiff's January 26 announcement also preempted Feinstein's, but reportedly with her blessing -- although not yet her endorsement. He said he is running “to build an economy that works for everyone, a democracy that will last for all time and a planet that doesn’t melt beneath our feet.”

Schiff, 62, gained national recognition as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as the lead prosecutor in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. He has the endorsements of two dozen former and current Members of Congress, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.

Porter and Schiff are both prolific fundraisers, with Porter having raised more than any other Democrat, including Pelosi, during the 2022 election cycle. Porter pulled in $25.4 million, closing the year with nearly $7,435,000 cash on hand, and Schiff’s campaign reported raising $24.4 million, ending with $20,865,000 on hand.

The only public poll, a November 19-21, 2022 survey of likely voters by Porter pollster David Binder Research (DBR), showed Porter leading Schiff 30% to 29%, followed by 9% for Lee, 6% for Khanna, and 9% for "a Republican candidate." (MOE: ±4.0%) In a head-to-head matchup, Porter received 37% to 26% for Schiff.

Waiting In The Wings
Twelve-term Congresswoman Barbara Lee, 76, a former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Chair Emerita of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is expected to kick off her campaign in the next week.

Lee was well positioned to be appointed to the Senate seat by Governor Gavin Newsom, who promised to select a Black woman if Feinstein stepped down early. But with the incumbent's assertion that she will serve out her full term, Lee must run against the field, starting with comparatively limited resources. Her 2022 campaign for the 12th District Alameda County-based seat reported raising $2 million during the 2022 election cycle, with just over $52,000 on hand.

Congressman Ro Khanna, who is in his fourth term representing the 17th District's Silicon Valley, is also seriously weighing a run. Khanna, 46, reported raising $5.8 million during the 2022 election cycle, ending with $5,289 on hand.

Although early in the contest, no prominent Republicans have entered the race. In the historically liberal state, the GOP has not won a statewide election since 2006 and Democrats have held both US Senate seats for the last three decades.

DemList will keep you informed.

See DemDaily: The 2024 Senate Landscape 1/17/23


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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Politico, The Hill, ABC, NPR, California SOS, Open Secrets

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