Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced Monday that she is running for reelection for the California Senate seat she has held since 1992.
Feinstein said on Twitter that she was “all in” and pledged to end gun violence and combat climate change.
Her reelection bid comes amid some criticism of her record from the left wing of the Democratic Party. As Emma Roller wrote in a profile at Splinter, Feinstein has opposed single-payer health care, staked out hawkish positions on national security (backing the Patriot Act and calling Edward Snowden a traitor), and supported raising the Social Security retirement age — all in a state that’s one of the most safely Democratic in the country.
Furthermore, Feinstein is 84, and running for reelection means that many of the younger Democratic talents in California may not have a clear opportunity to rise through the ranks. For instance, former California Sen. Barbara Boxer retired in 2015 at age 74, allowing rising star Kamala Harris to be elected to the Senate.
Critics say Feinstein is staying on as a leader when her policies come from a previous time in the Democratic Party. “Her policies are completely out of touch with California Democrats, and we think she’d be more at home in a Republican primary,” said Corbin Trent of the Bernie Sanders-inspired group Justice Democrats, vowing to back a primary challenger. “Safe Democratic seats are the place we should be representing core Democratic values.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who has backed Justice Democrats, called Feinstein “out of touch with the grassroots” on economic and foreign policy. “The fact that the establishment is rallying around her re-election shows that DC insiders continue to privilege protecting one of their own over the voters’ concerns,” added Khanna, who emphasized he is not considering a run for the seat.
But it’s far from clear if the left has the political muscle to topple the long-serving Democratic senator. One top Democratic strategist pointed out on Monday that Feinstein’s approval ratings among independents and Democrats in California remain strong. And most of the elected Democrats in the state are expected to back Feinstein. Sen. Harris, for instance, moved quickly to say she “strongly” supports Feinstein’s reelection campaign.
“From my perspective, I think Feinstein probably wins. She’s an institution, and has a formidable political operation that’s been around forever,” the strategist told me. “I think the online left conversation about Feinstein being a pariah is probably a little overblown to voters in the state.”