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.