Sunday Commentary: Storm Clouds Appearing for Feinstein’s Re-Election Hopes

The results from Election Day in early June give one the impression that 26-year incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein is on relatively safe ground.  She finished a commanding first overall with 44.2 percent of the vote and had nearly four times the votes as her next closest rival, fellow Democrat Kevin de León.

She may still be safe, but warning signs appeared over the weekend as the upstart rival Kevin de León not only secured the party endorsement, he did so in an overwhelming manner capturing 217 of the 333 votes.  By contrast, Ms. Feinstein got just 22 votes.  And a No Endorsement got 94 votes.

That has to be jarring for the long-time incumbent seeking to win another term that could take her into her 90s.

“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.,” Kevin de León said in a statement. “We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century.“

The Feinstein folks must have known she was in trouble here as they asked board members not to endorse either candidate rather than endorse her.

The campaign put on their best face in the wake of this trouncing.

“While 217 delegates expressed their view today, Sen. Feinstein won by 2.1 million votes and earned 70 percent of the Democratic vote in the California Primary election, carrying every county by double digits over her opponent,” said Jeff Millman, Feinstein’s campaign manager, in a statement. “We are confident that a large majority of California Democrats will vote to re-elect Sen. Feinstein in November.”

They in fact have a point.  Following the 2016 elections, the party delegates swelled with the ranks of the activist Bernie Sanders wing of the party, as many activists who emerged in 2016 to back the former independent’s surprising insurgent campaign stayed on board in hope of re-shaping the party.

That effort nearly paid off as Kimberly Ellis nearly knocked off Eric Bauman, the longtime chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party (LACDP), in a run for party chair.  Nearly 3000 votes were cast last year and she lost by a mere 62 votes.

Where this goes now, it is hard to know.  The Democratic establishment continues to back Senator Feinstein.  She has the backing from Democratic heavyweights like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi.

The party is worried about unity and the need to focus on competitive congressional races against the Republicans in the fall.  But, in a way, this is almost a freebie for the activist wing to do what the Republican activist wing has done time and time again – unseat an establishment incumbent with a more progressive replacement.

This is what happened in New York, when 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in what has been called the most shocking upset of a political season that appears to be on the verge of tumultuous.

Does this mean that Dianne Feinstein is in trouble?  Probably not, as the activist base of the party is far to the left of the rank and file.  But this is a strong message that Mr. de León can be more formidable than he showed on Election Day in June.

Back in June, most political consultants saw his bid as a long shot.  Ms. Feinstein has a 10 to 1 financial advantage.

“I don’t think he has enough of a base or enough of a case to make to voters that makes a two-person race between Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León competitive in any way,” said Katie Merrill, a veteran Democratic political strategist, to the Bee in early June as the primary results were in.

Then again, most would not have given Ms. Ocasio-Cortez any chance against Representative Crowley.

This is a free shot for the activists, and we will see happens.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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22 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Storm Clouds Appearing for Feinstein’s Re-Election Hopes”

  1. Tia Will

    One point of interest to me is the ageism being drawn upon here. I would like to point out that despite many calls for Senator Feinstein to step down, or be voted out based on her age, she has support across the age spectrum from Biden to Obama, from Brown to Harris.

    I also think it is interesting that age based calls for women to step down – Feinstein, Pelosi, HRC do not seem to apply to men. We rarely hear calls for male seniors such as Bernie Sanders to step down on the basis of their age. Hmmm….

        1. Ken A

          It looks like women born in the 1930’s live about 3.75 years longer than men born in the 1930’s.

          1. I don’t expect Senator Sanders to be serving in 9 years.

          2. If Senator Sanders is still in the Senate I expect to hear people on both the right and left mention at it might be a good time for the 85 year old guy to start taking his pension.

        2. Howard P

          Based on their activity levels, and apparent physical, mental and emotional health, they’ll likely both be in the second deviation on the long side of their respective curves.  I see no reason for either of them to step down due to age or health at this time.  Nor should age be used as a litmus test for re-electing either…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      It doesn’t seem to be age related. The people I know involved in this are upset over Feinstein’s voting record, not her age.

    2. Ken A

      I know Tia looks at the world as racist and sexist but just like cops shoot more white guys every year there has been pressure for more male US Senators to step down due to age than female senators.

      I read dozens of articles over at least a decade (from people on “both” the right and left) that said Strom Thurmond should step down due to age with headlines like: “STROM THURMOND: HOME ON THE HILL–OR OVER IT?”

      https://www.newsweek.com/strom-thurmond-home-hill-or-over-it-178342

      1. Tia Will

        Ken

        Respectfully, you know nothing of  “how Tia sees the world”. One thing you may know about my perspective is that I dislike people deciding they know more about what I think than I do instead of simply stating their own opinions. The only way you have of knowing anything another thinks is if they state so explicitly as I just did.

        1. Keith O

          I think anyone who regularly reads the Vanguard has seen enough of Tia’s comments to have a pretty good idea of “how Tia sees the world”.

        2. Ken A

          Maybe Tia will post today that she is really a Libertarian and that she has been trying to trick us all into thinking she is a Progressive Democrat who thinks white men are sexist and racist by posting over a thousand fake posts to the Vanguard that in no way reflect the way she views the world…

  2. John Hobbs

    “The people I know involved in this are upset over Feinstein’s voting record, not her age.”

    Specifically which votes seemed to upset them? How would you describe their ages, ethnicity and income? Or as Seinfeld would ask: Who are “these people?”

  3. John Hobbs

    I don’t have time to read the article, but thanks for the referral. Lol.

    OK, so the same folks who voted for Bernie will vote against Diane?

    I don’t think anyone can predict who the Beiber generation will vote for.

    Gen X’ers are a fickle lot, too. One of mine votes Green, the other is a libertarian, but votes Dem.

    Both indicated to me that they will vote for Diane.

    1. Ken A

      The simple answer is that small humans tend to live longer than big humans.

      The average woman is smaller than the average man so the average woman lives longer.

      The average Samoan women in the US is bigger than the average Japanese man in the US and they die sooner than average.

      In most families of the same race smaller men will tend to outlive bigger woman (the 5’6″ 150 pound guy will most likely outlive his 6’2″ 250 pound female cousin born the same day who ate the same food and had the same healthcare).

  4. Jeff M

    The Democrat Party is going through something similar to what the Republican Party went through with the Tea Party movement.  Old establishment politicos are being outed for new hot-heads demanding a return to ideological purity.

    The difference today is that the hotheads on the left are demanding more left at a time when Trump successfully helped the Republicans adopt all the voters that had been orphaned by the previous establishment Democrat drift away from them.

    But lessons are not being learned.  Today the only thing that Democrat voters seem to stand for is to stomp their feet in angry protest.

    And that is why DiFi is at risk.  She is too connected to the old establishment and the foot-stampers on the left want her gone.

  5. Sean Raycraft

    As one of those “younger, progressive, hotheads” I would like to say that my personal objections to DiFi are the same kind of objections I have with Democrats in the Bill Dodd, Tim Kaine political space. She supported the TPP (and her staff was quite haughty when people like myself respectfully asked for her reasoning in not opposing it.) she voted for the Iraq war, for the patriot act, is awful on privacy issues, glass steagall, etc etc etc. In the same way that Dodd opposes bank reform bills here in California or OT for farm workers.

    Then there’s Kevin’s record. (Kevin goes out of his way to talk about the senator respectfully). KDL was instrumental in getting the following legislation across the finish line:

    paid sick days for every Californian

    15$ minimum wage

    overtime for farm workers

    SB 54, the Sanctuary state law

    the cap and trade bills

    Equal pay for equal work

    and lots and lots of other  progressive legislation

    So, in short, it’s about issues, not age or gender. Or at least it is for me anyways.

    1. Ken A

      I’m pretty sure that if you asked Democrats, Republicans and the growing number of NPP voters in CA why they don’t want Senator Feinstein representing us in the US Senate age and gender would not even make the top 100…

    2. Howard P

      Thank you for laying out “the agenda” issues…

      And he promoted those causes as a “true believer” rather than as a ‘vote-counting’ mantra, right?

      And Kevin roomed (shared apartment with) with Mendoza, right?

      Guess that tells us something of Kevin’s character too… ok with Mendoza’s behavior (he really didn’t know?), then when Mendoza became toxic, threw his roomie under the bus… great qualifications as US Senator… “DiFi” vs. an opportunist…  will have to cogitate on that… age over ‘sleazy’/opportunistic?

      Might be better parsed as maturity vs. lack thereof.

    3. Jeff M

      Many of those favored policy items you list are way left of center… especially sanctuary state.  Just a few more murders at the hands of illegal immigrants and it will be the single campaign issue that destroys Democrat prospects in coming elections, IMO.  There is no middle ground there with respect to conservative and center-right moderate morality.

      From a recent Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies and the Harris Poll, when asked “Should cities that arrest illegal immigrants for crimes be required to turn them over to immigration authorities?” Eighty percent of people responded “yes.”

      I agree that age and gender are likely deminimis issues for most voters.  However, age can certainly result in more gaffes.  Nancy Pelosi is becoming a gaffe machine.  I think the Dem party might want to consider the potential damage to the party due to the new way the media jumps on everything said as a potential viral media storm.  It might be time to jettison the old white baby boomer liberals and replace them with young socialists.

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