Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Monday that she’ll run for a sixth term, ending months of speculation that the senior senator from California would step down in 2018.
Feinstein, 84, is the oldest member of Congress and has served five terms, representing California since 1992.
While she’s been raising money all year, Feinstein previously refused to announce her re-election intentions. And as uncertainty mounted in recent months, she faced calls from some constituents and critics to step aside and let a fresh face into a Democratic Party that’s rebuilding after losing the White House in 2016. She’s also lost ground in some recent polls.
But in recent days, Feinstein seemed to be moving toward a re-election announcement — and on Monday, made her decision public in a decidedly modern way: On Twitter.
I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare. I’m all in!
While Feinstein’s fame and longevity — and the $3.5 million she has in her campaign account — may scare off some would-be challengers, it didn’t deter some Democratic critics Monday. Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna told KQED that he has “respect” for Feinstein’s long public service career.
“I was hopeful, though, that she would recognize it’s time for a new generation of leadership, of people who share progressive values on economic issues, and foreign policy issues,” he said. “And I am still hopeful that some progressive new voices will emerge.”
Bill Carrick, Feinstein’s longtime campaign manager, said the senator is “ready to go,” and “looking forward” to a campaign over the next year. He said she is exactly the voice and person Democrats need in Washington right now, noting her senior position on key committees in the Senate.
“I think it’s time for having somebody in Washington that has the clout and the strength to really fight the battle against the Trump administration and the Republicans. … She can protect our civil rights, she can protect a women’s right to choose, she can protect us from extreme judges, she can protect us on many fronts,” he said.
“I think the idea that somebody should be elected to office because of their age is ridiculous,” Carrick added. “You should look for the most qualified, the most committed, somebody that can move a progressive agenda in the hostile political environment and the Republican-controlled Congress. And she, right now, is the right choice to be our United States senator.”
Some high-profile California Democrats immediately pledged their support. Sen. Kamala Harris sent out a fundraising email with the subject “Can you donate $3 to Dianne Feinstein?”
“Few people have done more to serve middle-class families in California and across this country than Dianne Feinstein. No one is more fearless telling the truth on issues like reducing gun violence or uncovering CIA torture than Dianne Feinstein,” Harris wrote. “Dianne is someone who sticks to her ideals and achieves results regardless of what makes for good politics or what her powerful opponents may say. We are better off because of her leadership in the Senate, and I’m proud to endorse her campaign.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also tweeted his support for Feinstein. Like her, Newsom is a former San Francisco mayor who she has mentored throughout his career.
Sen. Feinstein is a tough-as-nails, thoughtful leader who gets it – and gets it done for us in DC. I support her reelection. https://t.co/yrAbcXUqL0
Still, Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said it seems likely that Feinstein will face some sort of challenge from the left.
“I don’t know if that will be somebody who can unseat her,” Levinson said. “She’s been a fixture of California politics for as long as most people who are voting can remember — she has great fundraising prowess, she has a great established network of support and she happens to be an incumbent, which we all know is a great advantage if you’re running to be a senator.”
Feinstein has held the seat for 25 years, so Levinson said it’s not surprising there are a lot of people who have been waiting for her to retire.
“But my guess is they will have to wait a little longer,” Levinson said.
And in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Feinstein is also front and center of a fight that could win her back some progressive support: Gun control.
It’s an issue that’s been near and dear to Feinstein for 40 years, after she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight in the aftermath of the 1978 murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein, who was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at the time, became mayor after Moscone’s death. Since then, she’s made gun control a centerpiece of her legislative agenda.
Last week, she and Harris announced legislation to ban the sale of accessories that can be used to increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons to mimic fully automatic firearms.
Carrick said Feinstein wasn’t convinced to run because of the Las Vegas attack, but that it certainly is another reason for Democrats to support her.
“I always felt like she had strong inclination to run again. I think one the major impacts in that decision was of course the shocking election of Trump and the dangers she saw to the country and California that would be created by that,” he said. “Progressives are looking for somebody who has a track record taking on the extreme right. Dianne has fought with the NRA over assault rifles, over gun safety, over and over and over again.”
Carrick said Feinstein hasn’t always won that fight, but she won’t stop trying.