Senator Barbara Boxer Announces She Will Not Run For Reelection

Official PortraitSince 1992, California has been represented in the US Senate by two Democratic women, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. In 2016, for the first time in 24 years, there will be a new senator as Barbara Boxer announced on Thursday that she would not run for reelection.

“I am never going to retire, the work is too important,” Barbara Boxer, 74, announced. “But I’m not going to be running for the Senate in 2016. I’m going to continue working on the issues that I love, I’ll have more time to help other people through my PAC for Change Community.”

In a video recorded with her grandson, she said that the fight for civil rights, human rights and equality “is a fight worth making and so that is not a factor in my decision.” She also said age was not a factor in her decision.

“Some people are old at 40 and some people are young at 80, it depends on the person,” she said. “As for me, I feel as young as I did when I got elected.”

She vowed to work to make sure that this Senate seat “stays progressive,” and she wants “to help our Democratic candidate for President make history.”

“I want to come home,” she said. “I want to come home to the state that I love so much.”

“I am beyond proud that the people of California believed in me all of these years,” she said. “I first was elected in 1976… I think I won ten elections after that. What an opportunity the people of California gave me.”

Ms. Boxer started out as a journalist in the 1970s. She became an aid to then-US Representative John Burton. She was elected to the Marin County Board of Supervisors for six years before running to succeed the controversial Phil Burton in 1982 just before the longtime party leader’s death in 1983.

A decade later, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both won Senate seats as part of the “year of the woman” in 1992.

Longtime Democratic Senator Alan Cranston had retired and Ms. Boxer narrowly defeated conservative television political commentator, Bruce Herschensohn, by 4.9 percent in a race that had become very close. The narrow race and the conservative opponent led many to believe that Ms. Boxer was vulnerable, however her reelection campaigns in 1998, 2004, and 2010 were never closely contended, as California moved more solidly into the Democratic column.

President Obama said, “Thanks to Barbara more Americans breathe clean air and drink clean water. More women have access to health care. More children have safe places to go after school. More public lands have been protected for future generations. More Americans travel on safe roads and bridges. And more young women have been inspired to achieve their biggest dreams, having Barbara as an incredible role model.”

“Senator Boxer has been a forceful advocate for the people of California. She’s brought verve and imagination to the Senate,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “There’s still much to do, and I look forward to working closely with her, particularly on issues related to climate change.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued a statement, “For over three decades, Senator Barbara Boxer has served the people of California with an unwavering commitment to bettering the lives of her constituents and all Americans. Senator Boxer is a true progressive champion and a tireless advocate for California’s priorities. I know she will never stop fighting for what matters, and I wish her all the best.”

This likely marks the changing of the guard in California. In 2018, Dianne Feinstein, now 81, likely will opt not to seek reelection. Governor Jerry Brown will be termed out that same year.

While Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein will be inextricably linked, they are not the longest serving tandem. The longest-serving duo included South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who served as both a Democrat and Republican. He served 37 years with Senator Fritz Hollings (D) until Mr. Thurmond retired at the age of 100.

According to an article in the Washington Post, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer will be only the 12th longest duo to serve together in the Senate in US History.

The big speculation is who will run? As the Sacramento Bee points out, “Boxer’s announcement will force choices: Run for governor or senator? Run for senator now or senator later? Given its rarity, some will find the immediate opening too tempting to pass up.”

There’s a whole generation of Democratic politicians that have come and gone while Senators Boxer and Feinstein have held these seats,” said veteran Democratic strategist Garry South. “If you are an ambitious, young Democrat you are not just going to let these opportunities go.”

The Democrats would figure to have a huge advantage, both in terms of the possible names as well as recent electoral trends. Among the possible contenders: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, former LA Mayor and former Speaker of the Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa, and the Bee also mentions former Senate President Darrell Steinberg.

A name of local interest might be Congressman John Garamendi, who has served at various levels of state government, been a candidate for governor, and currently represents Yolo County and other counties as a Congressman.

Of the top contenders, the Bee notes, “Newsom has the portfolio to compete for Boxer’s seat. But the former San Francisco mayor, who rose to prominence after legalizing gay marriage in the city in 2004, is viewed as more likely to run for governor in 2018.”

Meanwhile, of Kamala Harris, they say, “Another leading contender, Harris has recently been making the rounds in Washington and building her national profile, perhaps indicating a greater interest in the U.S. Senate than a potential gubernatorial run. She could benefit from an expected Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.”

Republicans have a shorter list, but the most intriguing name might be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but she had not shown an inclination to run for office. Other possibilities would be San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer who is mayor of the second largest city in California but has “no statewide profile.” Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin made news this week as a supporter of the high speed rail, and she ran for state controller last fall, but, as the Bee puts it, “She has yet to demonstrate she can raise real money, though.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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  1. Barack Palin

    Good, we need some new blood.  Will her ego let it be okay to address her as Ma’am when she’s out of office?  It’s time for Feinstein to hang them up too.

      1. Tia Will

        For a different perspective on the importance of titles and word usage.

        I prefer to be referred to as “Dr.” rather than “miss” or “Ms.” or “nurse”. Is this partly about ego ?  Sure, but it is also about using the correct title for clarity and as a sign of respect.

        As a second example,  in our state prisons, the commonly used term to refer to female inmates by correctional officers is “girls”. The commonly used term to refer to male prisoners is “inmates”. This usage is clearly both unclear, as some of the correctional officers at all institutions are also female and therefore could be referred to ( albeit patronizingly as “girls”) whereas there is no confusion or patronization if the term “inmates is used for all prisoners regardless of gender.


        1. Barack Palin

          So if one of your patients said “thank you Miss Will” at the end of an office visit you would correct them and say “I prefer to be called Dr. Will because I worked so hard to get that title”?

        2. South of Davis

          Dr. Will wrote:

          > I prefer to be referred to as “Dr.”

          Should we expect you to change your Vanguard name again to “Dr. Will” (and change your photo to one where you are wearing a white lab coat)…

  2. Anon

    I actually have some respect for Diane Feinstein, but Boxer has been a very divisive figure, for example from

    By now, most of the country is aware that at one of her hearings, Boxer asked Brigadier General Michael Walsh to call her “senator” instead of “ma’am.” “I worked so hard to get that title,” she explained. “Ma’am” comports with military courtesy.

    Then last year, she got into a verbal brawl with President Harry C. Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who accused Boxer of being “condescending” for quoting other black groups who agreed with her and disagreed with him on the issue at hand — as if to say — These other black groups think you’re wrong. You should get back on the liberal plantation with them and toe the line.“That’s racial,” Alford shot back. “I don’t like it. I take offense to it.“”

    1. Davis Progressive

      interesting.  when i think of boxer, i don’t think of her as being a divisive figure.  i think of her as been an ineffectual figure.  what would you consider her greatest policy initiatives, i can’t think of any.  feinstein is too conservative for my blood, but i can think of plenty policy initiatives including one she’s pushing right now on the cia and torture.

  3. Tia Will


    “I prefer to be called Dr. Will because I worked so hard to get that title”?”

    No, I would not. However, I do believe that there is some difference between what a patient calls me in a conversation between the two of us and what a member of the military chooses to call a senator at a public hearing.

    Having said that, I do believe that Senator Boxer was being a little petty in this instance. I do not see this as rising to the level of a comment that should be highlighted as characteristic of her service over time regardless of whether or not you agree with her politics.

    1. hpierce

      Please understand how “dismissive” Sen Boxer has been over the years.  From personal experience, she was the opposite of a “representative”.  She ‘presents’ as an ideological meglomaniac, who has acted as true, self-serving political animal.  If constituents urged her to consider other views on pending legislation, her office didn’t even have the courtesy to say “thank you for your input”, if the constituent’s views did not coincide with her “agenda”.  The responses to such communications, from her staff, were along the lines of, “you’re stupid and wrong, I’m right, so blow off”.  [one of the issues was “partial birth abortion”].

      Feinstein, and her staff, by contrast, acknowledged receipt of the communications, and were respectful of the constituent’s opinion, and responded gracefully, even if she ultimately voted to the contrary.  Feinstein earned her “bones” in the aftermath of the brutal murders of Moscone/Milk.  Boxer has no true record of public service.

      1. wdf1

        hpierce: Feinstein, and her staff, by contrast, acknowledged receipt of the communications, and were respectful of the constituent’s opinion, and responded gracefully, even if she ultimately voted to the contrary.

        I’m disappointed to hear that about Boxer.  I used to live in Tom DeLay’s district (eventually become Republican Majority Leader) in Texas, and the office response to constituent comments (for me, several times) was much like what you describe for Boxer.  Feinstein’s example is one that all public officials (elected or not, local, state, federal), who are specifically tasked with interacting with the public, should follow.

        The least one can do is, “Thanks for your comments/input.”

  4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    There are several things we already (almost certainly) know about the person who will replace Sen. Boxer:

    First, our next U.S. senator will be a Democrat. I have heard several names floated, including Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (who I expect will not run, but will try to succeed Jerry Brown in 2018) and various Republicans. IMO, there is very little chance that the winner in 2016 will not come from Barbara Boxer’s party. Aside from the fact that the California Republican Party is wildly unpopular to a majority of our state’s residents and with the exception of a movie star and one other dude* we have not elected a Republican statewide this century, this senatorial election will coincide with a presidential vote. And so, marginal Democratic voters (especially youth, blacks and Latinos) will turn out in much larger numbers than they do in non-presidential years.

    Second, our next U.S. senator will be very rich. It takes a lot of money to win a statewide race. It is very hard to get your name out (in a crowded primary field) if you don’t have a lot of money or you are not already quite famous (like Jerry Brown or a movie star). So unless big monied interests are funding a top candidate’s campaign (with so-called independent expenditures), the winner will have to either raise a lot of money from special interests or self-finance or both. It is no coincidence that both Boxer and Feinstein are very rich women. Same was true of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina who ran statewide as Republicans.

    Third, our next U.S. senator will have the strong endorsement of the CTA and other major public employee unions in our state. Not only do these special interests bring a lot of money into the primary race (and later the general), but they are unique in being able to deliver the votes and the groundwork of their members. These unions help insure that the winner will be a Democrat, and most likely a liberal Democrat.

    If I had to make a wild guess as to the person I think will replace Boxer, I would guess it will be someone no one is talking about … someone like Rep. Loretta Sanchez from Orange County. She is a multi-millionaire (by way of a divorce settlement). However, she is not nearly rich enough to self-finance her campaign. So if she wins, my second “known thing” would be wrong. What she has going for her, beside long service in the House, is a record as a moderate and her heritage as a Latino woman. Sanchez is well liked by a lot of Democrats; and since her divorce, her now real name is actually Spanish. (Loretta fared poorly earlier in her career when she ran as a Republican under her married name, Loretta Brixey). … Another possible outside the box choice is John Chiang. He has won statewide office many times. I think his personality is more that of an executive than a legislator. And he may have trouble winning in the primary if there are a lot of well known names to get past. But unlike most other possible choices, Chiang is a proven winner statewide.

    *Beside the moderate movie star from Austria, Steve Poizner won a race for insurance commissioner as a Republican with a plurality of the vote in 2006. However, a big part of the reason for Poizner’s win was the ethical cloud surrounding his Democratic opponent, Cruz Bustamante.

    1. Frankly

      No Carly Fiorina equivalent in 2016?   Too bad, it might be a year for anger against the President to carry more independents to run from the Democrats.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Probably the best scenario for a Democrat to not win Boxer’s seat would be 1) The Dem who wins the primary is unpalatable to most middle of the road voters, either because of personality or positions and 2) A very wealthy independent defeats the leading Republican in the open primary for the right to face off with the Dem in the general election. Neither of those is out of the question. But it probably takes both to happen together for the Democrat to lose.

        A much, much less likely scenario would be in the primary there is just one well-heeled Republican running, one well-heeled* independent and 5 or more Democrats who are all about equally popular, and no Democrat wins one of the top two slots for November. Part of the reason this is so unlikely to happen is that the unions and other special interests who own the Democratic Party will eventually settle on one or two Democrats in the primary, and they will then fund those campaigns and work just for those favorites, if it looks like the Democratic vote is too diluted.

        *Well-heeled is a weird term. I will look up its origins before I post this. But my guess is that it comes from having nice shoes. That is, someone who can afford good heels is a well-heeled person. … This is what the internet believes the origin of well-heeled is:

        “No one knows the exact origins of heeled in this use, but there are a few theories. One is that this sense of heeled has to do with shoes; a person who has nice shoes is well-heeled and hence well-off. Or our modern sense of well-heeled could come from mid-19th-century American-West slang, where well-heeled meant armed with a gun.”

      2. South of Davis

        Frankly wrote:

        > No Carly Fiorina equivalent in 2016? 

        Carly is busy running to be the VP on the Bush ticket (since he will probably pick a female VP to try and get some middle of the road female votes from Clinton)…

        P.S. With (conservative) Deb Saunders bashing her over money she ownes so early on her campaign may already be DOA…

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      Second, our next U.S. senator will be very rich.

      Just saw this: Billionaire Tom Steyer mulls run for Sen. Boxer’s seat

      Steyer is the sort of super rich liberal who could rise to the top of a crowded primary field. What would be harder for him is if just one major opponent with a lot of elected experience was in the field: Say someone like Kamala Harris. His money would help him a lot. But her qualifications would probably trump his money in a one-on-one race. The billionaire card plays better in a crowded field. Keep in mind that he would not need to finish first. Top two move on to November. Steyer would be well positioned if he got that far against a Republican.

      1. Don Shor

        You’re probably right, but…

        Al Checchi

        Bill Simon

        Jane Harman

        Michael Huffington

        Steve Westly

        Steve Poizner

        Carly Fiorina

        Meg Whitman
        … all demonstrate that having lots of money doesn’t necessarily translate to statewide electoral success.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I think all the rich Republicans on your list won in their primaries. Poizner also won in the general election over Cruz Bustamante. The two Dems on there lost in their primaries to Gray Davis (I think). Davis is actually rich, too*, but not a billionaire. But his strength was a long history of statewide fame in politics, going back to his days when he worked for Jerry Brown.

          (* I tried to find online how “rich” Gray Davis is, and found nothing. I might be wrong saying he has money. Wikipedia says he was raised in an upper middle class household. However, it also looks like he never made too much money as a lawyer until after he was recalled as governor. He just has the air of a rich guy; maybe that is why I thought he was wealthy.)

          I think my point stands that if it is a crowded primary field–now with an open primary–one rich Democrat could have a big advantage. But if the rich person has little or no elective experience, particularly statewide, and he/she is facing someone like a Kamala Harris or a John Chiang in the primary, the rich person will not likely win.

          With the Republicans, I think it hardly matters at all who emerges as their champion. He or she will very likely lose in the general election. The most likely way that could turn out otherwise is if the Democratic winner is scandal-ridden; or the Republican is not much of a partisan, but is very well known for non-political reasons, such as being a sports star or being a movie star.

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          RIFKIN: “If the rich person has little or no elective experience, particularly statewide, and he/she is facing someone like a Kamala Harris or a John Chiang in the primary, the rich person will not likely win.”

          Kamala Harris has announced her candidacy. She will be formidable. She will be our next U.S. Senator if she makes it through the primary.

          Perhaps the biggest risk to her chances will be if, among the Democrats, there are several strong lefty-liberals and just one strong moderate. I am thinking of a statewide version of how Bill Dodd* beat Wolk and Krovoza.

          Harris. of course, is very far left. But so is Boxer, and that has never hurt either one.

          *Geography and money also worked strongly in Dodd’s favor … in addition to the fact that the lefty-liberals were divided.

        3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          I doubt that. Newsom had previously announced he will not run for the Senate seat. He is likely going to run in 2018 for governor. I think AG Harris did want to get out ahead of (former L.A. Mayor and Law School failure) Antonio Villaraigosa, who is also a liberal and is  considering running. Getting out early may be important if Tom Steyer, another liberal, runs, in order to try to capture the liberal donors. Steyer, as noted above, will not need to raise money. But I think he would actually do better if he did. He is unqualified in terms of having held public office. Harris is highly qualified in that respect. But if he raised money in small lots from a wide group of donors, he might held get buy-in to his campaign.

  5. South of Davis

    Rich wrote:

    > There are several things we already (almost certainly) know

    > about the person who will replace Sen. Boxer:

    Rich made a lot of great points and I’m pretty sure that California will have a lot more elected officials with last names ending in a “Z” in the next 20 years…

  6. jimcorb

    Just a quick perspective from a former U. S. Army  sergeant….I believe that Ma’am is the proper military courtesy when addressing women.  You would think that Senator Boxer would have known this given her long tenure.  There are a lot of conclusions one could draw from this single interchange, but frankly it is not worth the time or energy.  She is an absolute zero.

    1. Barack Palin

      Agree jimcorb, and if you’ve seen the exchange one will notice that the general referred to the male Senators as “sir” and they didn’t come back and ask him to address them as Senator.  That exchange said a lot about Babs Boxer.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      In most cases I would give a senator a break for this kind of an outburst, assuming she just had a bad day or perhaps was otherwise irritated by this one military officer. However, Boxer never apologized and has a long history of being abrasive and lacking savor faire. Yet, ultimately, if you like her liberal point of view, you will accept her as she is and likely appreciate having her strong will to fight for the causes you believe in. And if you have strongly conservative opinions, it would not matter if she were Miss Congeniality. Fox News viewers would still find fault with Madame Boxer. For those of us who are normally somewhere in the center, Boxer’s personality needlessly repels. By contrast, Diane Feinstein, whose voting record is quite similar, is much easier to stomach.

    3. Tia Will

      I believe that Ma’am is the proper military courtesy when addressing women.”

      As a former member of the non arms bearing branch of the military, the Indian Health Service, I have a different perspective on this. “Ma’am” is one potentially courteous choice for addressing a woman. Another choice is to use their earned title instead of their gender designation.

      I have already stated that I feel that this was petty on the part of Senator Boxer. I also feel that one cannot assume whether this term was chosen out of respect, or out of this individuals desire to bring gender into the interaction or just as an automatic learned response.. While on duty, I saw it used in a number of ways, some respectful, some sarcastic..


  7. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    “(Boxer’s) reelection campaigns in 1998, 2004, and 2010 were never closely contended, as California moved more solidly into the Democratic column.”

    Closely contested?

    I think you unintentionally made a mistake here. However, it’s one of those odd boners that almost works, too. Contended as a preterite verb can mean battled or opposed. “Bradley contended for the title.” In that sense an election contest where one candidate wins easily is “not closely contended.” However, I would still mark “closely contended” as wrong, because “closely contested” is not just literal, but it is a common figure of speech. Changing the verb loses its appeal of familiarity without improving upon the standard.

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