Steyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein

Steyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein
© The Hill photo illustration

Billionaire Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer on Wednesday endorsed California state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D), the top progressive challenger running against longtime Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein Trump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death MORE (D).

Steyer’s endorsement comes less than two months before the June 5 primary and gives de León a boost in his uphill battle to unseat Feinstein, who has served in the Senate since 1992.

In an interview with The Hill, de León said the two share the same values on environmental issues, with the hopes of “making climate change a priority in Washington.”

“That’s where our bond and friendship was forged in the battlefields of fighting industries that sought to defeat and undermine California’s clean energy global leadership,” de León said.

Steyer, an environmental activist, considered running for either Senate or governor in California, but ultimately ruled out running for office this cycle. He’s seen as a potential presidential contender in 2020.

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“I think he’s the kind of young progressive that reflects California and would be a very strong advocate for our state nationally,” Steyer said of de León in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the endorsement.

While Steyer believes de León is best-suited for the Senate, he didn’t take any jabs at Feinstein and commended her for her public service.

“These are two strong, very good Democrats. I just believe Kevin is the true progressive and he reflects something we need representing California going forward,” Steyer told the Times. “I have nothing bad to say about Dianne Feinstein. I have a lot of good to say about Kevin de León.”

When asked by the Times if he’d contribute money to an outside group supporting de León, Steyer wouldn’t rule it out, saying, “I don’t have any concrete plans for that.”

De León told The Hill that he hasn’t talked with Steyer about resources because he wouldn’t be able to coordinate with him.

Feinstein has come under fire from progressives who believe she hasn’t held President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE accountable. On Tuesday, she came out in opposition to Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Trump spurs new wave of economic angst by escalating China fight Trump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' MORE.

Still, Feinstein is well-positioned to win another term to the upper chamber, thanks to her commanding lead in the polls, fundraising advantage and strong name recognition after decades in California politics.

Most primary polls show the senator leading by at least 20 points. And Feinstein has a massive campaign bank account of $10 million, though part of that has come from self-funding. Meanwhile, de León has just more than $672,000 in the bank.

But he's also gotten his fair share of notable endorsements from top progressive and labor groups. And back in February, the California Democratic Party declined to endorse Feinstein at the state party's convention.

De León acknowledged the significant money gap, saying that he went in knowing he wouldn’t be able to match the fundraising of a multimillionaire.

“I understand the unique challenges when you go up against someone who can easily self-finance her campaign,” de León said. “But this election is more than money, it’s an election about talking and engaging with voters.”

California features a top-two primary, where all candidates face off in a single primary regardless of party affiliation. The top two finishers advance to a general election runoff.

Updated at 6:10 p.m.