In a stunning rebuke, the California Democratic Party declined to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein in her re-election bid and instead backed her progressive challenger on the November ballot, state Sen. Kevin de León.
De León, a fellow Democrat, received 65 percent of the vote of about 330 members of the state party’s executive board in Oakland on Saturday— more than the 60 percent needed to secure the endorsement, The Los Angeles Times reported. Feinstein received 7 percent of the vote, while 28 percent voted for “no endorsement,” as she had requested in the name of “party unity.”
Feinstein, 85, finished first in the state’s June primary, with the 51-year-old de León emerging as her general election challenger under California’s “top two” nominating system. Neither candidate had received the necessary 60 percent of support in a gathering of the state Democratic Party before June’s vote.
Feinstein, first elected to her Senate seat in 1992, remains favored to cruise to victory over her relatively unknown opponent, despite the latest rebuff from state party activists. She holds an overwhelming fundraising advantage and has led in the polls by some 30 percentage points.
The party vote supporting de León is instead seen as sending a message of discontent to Feinstein, a centrist who has struggled at times to keep up with California’s leftward lurch in recent years ― especially in the age of President Donald Trump, who is overwhelmingly unpopular in the state.
“I just think we need a younger, progressive person there,” state Democratic committee member Lynne Standard-Nightengale told the Times. “The Democratic Party in California has moved to the left, and he personifies those values.”
Feinstein has taken steps to bring herself more in line with the political shifts in her home state. In May, for example, she reversed her long-standing opposition to marijuana decriminalization, saying she was open to extending federal protections for states that have legalized it. In 2016, California voters approved an initiative legalizing marijuana in the state.
Senator Dianne Feinstein through the years
Senator Dianne Feinstein through the years
San Francisco's mayor Dianne Feinstein smiling and reviewing a document in her city hall office.
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 11: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., talks with reporters before a Senate Judiciary Committee markup in Dirksen Building on the 'Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017' and judicial nominations on January 11, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
San Francisco Mayor & Dem. gubernatorial hopeful Dianne Feinstein speaking on telephone in private box during NFL game between San Francisco 49ers & Seattle Seahawks; looking at aide. (Photo by Kim Komenich/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
California Governor Gray Davis (L) chats with Senator Dianne Feinstein
(D-CA) on his campaign plane during a three-day tour of California,
October 4, 2003. Davis faces a recall election October 7. REUTERS/Lucy
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Her staff is responsible for spearheading the 6,000-page report set to be released Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, on the interrogation tactics used by the CIA during the George W. Bush years, which President Obama and others have labeled as torture.
US President 's first Supreme Court nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (left) is greeted by the first two women to serve on the Senate Judicary Committee - Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), right - on July 20 prior to the opening of Ginsburg's confirmati on hearings on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) administers the oath for Acting Director at the National Counterterrorism Center Nicholas Rasmussen during his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on November 20, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rasmussen has been nominated to lead the National Counterterrorism Center and he will become the next director if confirmed by the Senate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) welcomes U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (R) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, talks to reporters after a private meeting the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. U.S. Senate Democrats plan to elevate first-term Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to their leadership ranks on an expanded communications and policy committee led by third-ranking Democrat Charles Schumer. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein gets off a escalator at the U.S. Capitol building November 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Congress returned to work today following last week's mid-term election break. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: Committee chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) (L) listens to an aide during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee June 5, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was focused on 'Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Reforms' and H.R.3361 the 'USA FREEDOM Act.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) preside over the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch (not pictured) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks to reporters after the Senate approved $15.25 billion in aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey along with measures that would fund the federal government and raise its borrowing limit on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks during FBI Director James Comey's appearance before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
President Bill Clinton holds hands with US. Senator Dianne Feinstein (L) and California Democratic Governor Candidate Kathleen Brown (R) November 4 at a Democratic party rally on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall. Clinton urged voters to elect Brown and re-elect Fienstein, saying he needs them on his team
California State Assemblyman and Democratic Party Congressional candidate Mike Honda raises his arm along with California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D/CA) (L) at a campaign rally at Honda headquarters in San Jose, California, on November 1, 2000. Honda is locked in a tight race with Republican Party candidate Jim Cunneen to represent California's 15th Congressional District. The seat is being vacated by Republican Representative Tom Campbell who is running for the U.S. Senate against Feinstein.
Senator Dianne Feinstein addresses supporters November 7 at a pre-election day rally at her campaign headquarters
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) laughs during an election party in San Francisco, California, November 7, 2006. REUTERS/Kimberly White (UNITED STATES)
(Original Caption) San Diego: On the end of a two-day, 5-city campaign tour, former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein announces her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for California governor in the June 5th primary election. Speaking to the San Diego media on the issues, she challenged opponent Calif. Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp to a series of 6 debates.
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 6: (L to R) Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) talk with each other during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing concerning firearm accessory regulation and enforcing federal and state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) on Capitol Hill, December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, listens during a hearing with Jeff Sessions, U.S. attorney general, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Sessionsï¿½told senators he won't answer questions about his conversations with Presidentï¿½Donald Trumpï¿½over the firing of FBI Directorï¿½James Comey. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images