California Democratic leaders have jettisoned long-time Senator Dianne Feinstein in favor of state legislator Kevin de León.
The California Democratic Party officially endorsed de León Saturday, in a move that was seen as a sign that the party was moving even further to the left, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Feinstein, 85, is seeking her fifth full term in the Senate. She remains on the ballot in November against de León, 51. Feinstein and de Leon were the first- and second-place winners in California’s all-voter Senate primary, according to Polito. Under California election rules, the two top vote-getters in a primary race move on to a face-to-face race in the general election, regardless of party.
The Los Angeles-based de León, received 65 percent of the vote from the party’s executive board, against 7 percent for Feinstein. Feinstein’s plea that party leaders not back anyone was shown in the fact that 28 percent voted not to endorse anyone, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The request annoyed some party leaders.
“It’s strategically what you do when you know you can’t win,” said Eric Sunderland, the Democrats’ Sacramento regional director, according to the Sacramento Bee. “She knew she was not going to win. It’s a blocking maneuver.”
De León characterized his win as a rejection of politics as usual.
“Earning the endorsement of so many leaders and activists of the California Democratic Party isn’t just an honor and a privilege; today’s vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington, D.C.,” he said in a statement. “We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century.“
Winning the endorsement and the election are different matters. Last month, Feinstein won the Senate “jungle” primary with 44 percent of the vote while de León came in second at 12 percent.
However, among party leaders, de León has enjoyed stronger support. In February, at the party’s convention, he won 54 percent of the leadership’s support against 37 percent for Feinstein. California Democratic Party rules requires that the party’s nominee reach the 60 percent mark, which required a second vote this weekend.
In its reporting on de León’s win, The New York Times connected it to the victories of other left-leaning candidates who have scored upsets recently, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, upset long-time New York City Democratic powerhouse Joseph Crowley in a congressional primary in June.
Feinstein’s camp, however, projected confidence that the voters at large would keep her in the Senate.
“We are confident that a large majority of California Democrats will vote to re-elect Sen. Feinstein in November,” Jeff Millman, her campaign manager, said Saturday night, according to WFMZ.
Bill Carrick, an adviser to Feinstein, said the endorsement had little meaning.
“They are trying to demonstrate that they have a pulse,” Carrick said in reference to de León’s campaign. “And that’s what it’s all about. They have no opportunity between the primary and Labor Day to get any attention. This is the only game in town. Desperate strokes for desperate folks.”
Jonathan Underland, a spokesman for de León, said the real issue was that Feinstein was no longer in tune with her party.
“They’ve struggled to capture the imagination and vision of one of the nation’s most accomplished Democratic parties,” he said.
Feinstein found herself losing popularity in her party last year when she suggested that forging a working relationship with President Donald Trump might be possible.
“It was like the 13th stroke of a clock. It just caught everybody’s attention,” California Democratic political strategist Garry South said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The political ground has just really shifted to the left right under her feet, and I’m just not sure she gets it.”
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