Last night, the California Democratic Party stunned supporters when they endorsed State Senator Kevin de León over incumbent United States Senator Dianne Feinstein in the 2018 California senate election. The move was unusual, considering that in the June primary election, De León came in second place to Feinstein, losing to her by 2,141,589 votes. The party completely disregarded the fact that only 12% of Democratic voters in the state backed him last month, which gave the impression that Californians still have confidence in Feinstein’s efforts as their senator.
The endorsement comes weeks after Senator Feinstein pleaded with the party to take a “no endorsement” approach to the election, claiming that an endorsement would further divide the Democratic Party between moderates and progressives. So far, the senate election is the only Democrat vs. Democrat race in the state that the party has made an endorsement in.
De León has served as a California state legislator for 12 years. He started out in the California General Assembly, before successfully running for the California State Senate. For 4 years, De León served as the State Senate Pro Tempore before stepping down in March to run in the senate election. During his career, he has been a champion of environmental issues, a strong advocate for gun control, and a long-time supporter of single-payer healthcare. Throughout his tenure, he has been criticized with claims of nepotism, due to two instances of his daughter being hired by companies that he conducts governmental and political business with.
Feinstein has served as a United States senator for 26 years, and is the longest serving female senator in American history. At 85, she is the oldest legislator in the senate. Before being elected as a senator in 1992, Feinstein started out as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1970, where she served for 8 years before being elected as board president. In 1978, Feinstein succeeded from the board and was sworn in as Mayor of San Francisco, after the incumbent mayor, George Mascone, was assassinated along with San Francisco supervisor and gay political icon, Harvey Milk. She served until 1988, before she unsuccessfully ran for Governor of California in 1990. During her time in the senate, Feinstein has served on 4 senatorial committees and 9 senatorial subcommittees. She is currently a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Throughout her career, she has been a fierce opponent of international drug trafficking, a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and an unapologetic defender of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. She has been a crusader of LGBT rights and victims’ rights since the 1970s, and has a 92% approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign. She has often been denounced by progressives for her moderate stances on political issues and her will to find common ground in order to pass Democratic legislation.
De León just barely secured the 60% endorsement requirement with 65% of the vote from over 300 members on the executive board of the California Democratic Party. Despite this, the race is still an uphill battle for De León, who currently only possesses $693,689 in campaign funds, compared to Feinstein’s $7,035,307. In addition, De León would need to resort to extreme campaigning methods in order to convince the 2.1 million people who voted for Feinstein to back him instead in November. The last time that Feinstein was up for re-election, she made history when she received the highest popular vote total of any senator in American history, with 7,864,624 votes.
Only time will tell who Californians will pick in November to represent them for another 6 years, but as of now, Senator Feinstein seems to have the better foundation for victory.
Check back soon for updates on the 2018 midterm elections!