Feinstein will be 85 years old in 2018. She supports the death penalty but not single-payer health care; she supports the NSA’s collection of metadata but balks when she thinks the CIA is spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. She is, as David Dayen pointed out today in the New Republic, “clearly too conservative to represent one of the nation’s most liberal states,” particularly at a time when the party is moving left.
Her new primary challenger, Kevin de León, is 50. He is the first Latino president of the California State Senate since 1883, as reported by LA Weekly, a child of immigrants who worked his way to Pitzer College and a political career. He’s a ferocious proponent of single-payer health care.
Nevertheless, prominent Senate Democrats like Kamala Harris have already endorsed her re-election campaign. The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday evening that SCN Strategies—the same firm that represents Harris, Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee—had formed a super PAC supporting Feinstein’s campaign. “We see the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. Senate under attack by political opportunists, and we are determined to fight just as hard for her as she fights for California,” SCN Strategies partner Sean Clegg told the Times.
De León has his own super PAC. But Feinstein is one of the wealthiest senators in the country; OpenSecrets.org reported her net worth as $79,067,057 in 2015. That’s a problem for most challengers, including de León, since it means that Feinstein can effectively buy an extension of her Senate tenure. Furthermore, her seat is safely Democratic, representing an opportunity for candidates like de León to refresh the party’s flagging national bench.