Feinstein fails to win endorsement from California Democrats
SAN DIEGO — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) failed to clinch the California state Democratic Party’s coveted endorsement, delivering a blow to the 25-year veteran lawmaker in her high-profile reelection race.
Feinstein received just 37 percent of the delegates’ votes at the state party’s annual convention in San Diego. Candidates need to win 60 percent of the vote in order to win the endorsement.
California Democrats declining to endorse Feinstein, 84, is a rebuke to the longtime senator who hasn’t typically showed up at past state party conventions but actively worked to earn support this time around.
Feinstein has held the California Senate seat since 1992 but faces a growing threat in the upcoming primary.
Her main rival, state Senate leader Kevin de León (D), garnered 54 percent of the vote, ultimately falling short of getting the state party’s backing. De León has mounted a campaign running to the left of Feinstein and has rallied progressives and labor activists.
In the lead-up to this year’s gathering, Feinstein’s team actively courted the 3,400 delegates who voted on the endorsement. Her campaign sent out mailers to delegates and held a conference call a day before the convention.
During speeches throughout the weekend to woo delegates, Feinstein touted her record on gun control and talked about combating gun violence in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Gun control has been a pet issue for Feinstein, who authored the 1994 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
Meanwhile, de León focused on his tenure in the state legislature, focusing on issues that have rallied the progressive base like single-payer health care and increasing the minimum wage to $15.
While the state party now won’t make an endorsement in the Senate race, de León’s performance gives him a much-needed boost in the uphill battle against Feinstein. The state senator has been trailing far behind in all primary polls and fundraising.
De León’s campaign took a victory lap early Sunday morning, calling it “an astounding rejection of politics as usual.”
“California Democrats are hungry for new leadership that will fight for California values from the front lines, not equivocate on the sidelines,” de León said in a statement. “We all deserve a leader who will take our climate action to Washington, and will fight each and every day to protect our human and civil rights, our immigrant families and Dreamers, champion universal healthcare and create good paying middle class jobs.
“It’s time we take California values to Washington, D.C., not the other way around.”
De León has rallied progressives who are frustrated with Feinstein and feel she hasn’t held President Trump accountable. He recently racked up influential labor endorsements from Services Employees International Union’s California chapter and from National Nurses United.
While de León was able to win over a majority of delegates — who are loyal party activists and officials — he still faces the hurdle of increasing his statewide name identification in the months leading up to the June 5 primary.
And Feinstein supporters believe that the snub by the state party isn’t a big loss, given her decades of experience serving in the Senate.
“This is just one stop for her on her way to reelection as U.S. senator,” said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member in California who’s supporting Feinstein. “She doesn’t have to hit any home runs here this weekend.”
The California Democratic Party is also making no endorsements in the three big statewide races. In the highly competitive governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom garnered 39 percent of the vote, while State Treasurer John Chiang came in close behind with 30 percent.
-Updated 2:17 p.m.