Kevin de León Planning To Challenge Feinstein For Senate Seat, Per Report
California State Senator Kevin de Leon delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)
On Monday, Senator Dianne Feinstein confirmed that she was running for reelection in 2018, setting the stage for a potential primary battle if another Democrat decided to challenge her. Few California Democrats are more powerful than state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, and his name led the list of potential challengers in California's 2018 Senate race long before Feinstein confirmed that she was "all in."
Now, CNN is reporting that de León is planning to enter the race, per "three sources with knowledge of his plans."
According to CNN, de León has started "calling labor leaders and elected officials to inform them of his plans" and will announce soon. This comes less than 24 hours after LA Weekly's Hillel Aron christened a potential de León Senate bid as "the hot political rumor of the moment."
De León, 50, represents California's 24th Senate District, which includes downtown and East Los Angeles. He was born in Los Angeles and served four years in the Assembly prior to his election to the Senate in 2010.
In a story last month speculating on de León's post-Legislature political future, Patrick McGreevy, the L.A. Times' California Legislature reporter, wrote that "Attempting to oust a sitting senator from his own party, especially one of Feinstein’s stature, would be without precedent in the modern era of California politics."
“There is no question if [Feinstein] chose not to run it would be a logical place for Kevin to go, and I think he would get tremendous support from the progressive community and Latino community and from Los Angeles,” California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman told the L.A. Times in September. But Feinstein did, in fact, choose to run again, and she near immediately received endorsements from fellow California Senator Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The United Farm Workers have also already endorsed Feinstein, and numerous Hollywood heavy-hitters were in attendance at a fundraiser for her held the after after she announced. There were also a small group of protesters outside, as noted by L.A. Times political reporter Seema Mehta:
Small group of protestors outside Feinstein fundraiser in Beverly Hills. pic.twitter.com/DTCkWdYXNP— Seema Mehta (@LATSeema) October 11, 2017
At 84 (she'll be 85 by the 2018 election), Feinstein is the oldest U.S. Senator currently serving. She may be a stalwart of California politics, but her centrist views have not endeared her to progressives. This is particularly true in a political climate where rising stars are making their names in opposition to the current administration, and in a state that has, according to the L.A. Times, "grown markedly more liberal since [Feinstein] was first elected." Her relevance is also debatable to some—see the very first suggested question on the first page of Google search results for "Senator Feinstein":
(Screenshot via Google)
But can de León mobilize those progressive votes? "Kevin speaks to immigrants and young people in a way that’s unique," Bauman told the Weekly. "And I think many people are frustrated by the status quo — even though he’s a consummate insider — view him as an outsider with respect to Washington."
The Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles—one progressive group with an increasingly large footprint in Los Angeles—had mixed feelings. "Feinstein has served the status quo, not Californians, and anyone who runs against her needs to prove that they have the people's material interests, not special interests, at the forefront of their mind," Kelsey Goldberg, DSA-LA's communications director, said in a statement to LAist. "De León is certainly better than Feinstein, but in undermining his own sanctuary bill by capitulating to the Sheriff, he's already proven that he's capable of being just as weak-willed."
LAist reached out to de León's office for comment but did not immediately hear back.