California Democrats are united on one thing: Long-time Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will be 91 in 2024, and nobody wants her to pursue a sixth term in office. Feinstein has been showing signs of marked mental decline in recent years and was not even endorsed by the party the last time she ran for re-election in 2018.
All expectations are that the seat will be wide open two years from now, and ambitious Democrats in the blue-dominated state are already jostling for position well before the starting gates are set up on the track.
New California Gold Rush
“They’re starting to call me to get ready for what is a massive campaign – truly, massively expensive and hard-fought,” former Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer told Politico. “It will be a very crowded field.”
“If Dianne chooses not to run again, there’s going to be a scrum, there’ll be a real free-for-all,” Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist, stressed to The Los Angeles Times in November.
The number of serious possible candidates can easily stretch into double digits, including outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and a plethora of local and state political officeholders. Even so, three candidates have emerged as the strongest early contenders.
“Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA) are fielding entreaties to jump into the race, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has publicly declared he is exploring a run,” Politico wrote. Two credentials justify their viability in the big-ticket hunt: money and acceptability among the strident progressives who fill California Democrat voter rolls.
Porter and Schiff are Capitol Hill cash powerhouses. According to the Open Secrets website, the two rank third and fourth respectively on a list of the biggest House fundraisers in 2021-22. Porter raised a whopping $22,681,268 while Schiff was just behind her with $22,017,598 raked in.
Porter had a tougher-than-expected race to hold on to her House seat, though, and her cash on hand stands at $8.8 million, The San Francisco Chronicle reports, while Schiff is sitting on a windfall, with $21 million in unspent funds piled up in his war chest.
Schiff became a national party star by serving as lead prosecutor in the first impeachment effort against former President Donald Trump, which naturally puts him in good stead with Golden State progressives.
Porter, meanwhile, has similarly endeared herself to the left with her very public interrogations of oil executives and other corporate figures during her time in the House.
Bay Area Bernie Bro
Khanna also has carved out a national profile, but he seems to have taken a more workmanlike approach than his flashier California cohorts. Unmistakably aligned with the left, Khanna has something of a populist streak that identifies with the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wing of the party. In the early years of the Trump administration, he attempted to seek common ground with Republicans who shared his anti-interventionist foreign policy views.
It is also notable that the recent “Twitter Files” on the suppression of Hunter Biden’s laptop released by new owner Elon Musk revealed Khanna to be a lonesome Democrat voice behind the curtain speaking up in defense of free speech.
This shows a certain devotion to principle over politics that is not at all embraced by “just win” Democrats either in California or anywhere else in the nation.
It marks an interesting dichotomy with strutting peacock Schiff, who became a fundraising giant due to his grandstanding in the first Trump impeachment circus.
Bernie Bros so highly regard Khanna that ex-Sanders presidential campaign officials have been urging him to think White House in 2024 if deeply unpopular President Joe Biden does not run for a second term.
Whereas a presidential race may be a bit of a stretch, a Senate seat is the obvious next step up the ladder for the young (46) and keenly ambitious Khanna.
His Bay Area base could serve him well in seeking to replace Feinstein, who launched her career in San Francisco politics in the 1970s. It also would help him quickly close any money gap with Porter and Schiff.
“Khanna is beloved by progressives and could divert rivers of money from his affluent Silicon Valley district,” is how Politico put it.
These three established names won’t be the only top prospects, and there may be surprises in the offing over the next 12-15 months. Given that we’re dealing with a blue electorate wholly infatuated with identity politics, emotional whims hold far more sway than usual. This makes timing, and a bit of luck in having the leftist zeitgeist drift your way, of the essence.
That said, the old political standbys never go out of fashion. Big money and a national profile will always get you a good lane in the field.
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