The California Democratic Party rebuked Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Saturday by giving its official endorsement to her longshot challenger, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, according to published reports.
What was de Leon's response?
"Today's vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington, D.C.," de Leon said in a statement following the decision. "We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century."
In February, the California Democratic Party declined to endorse Feinstein’s re-election bid. At the time, it did not endorse de Leon, who was working to appeal to those looking for a “fresh face and a more progressive senator,” to oppose President Donald Trump.
According to the Associated Press, 217 delegates voted for de Leon, of Los Angeles, while 22 cast ballots for Feinstein and 94 voted for no endorsement.
The move means the party’s executive board ignored pleas from Feinstein’s allies to remain neutral in the race.
In a statement, Feinstein supporters warned: "A divisive party endorsement for U.S. Senate would hurt all down-ballot candidates and our ability to turn out Democrats we desperately need to vote in November."
De Leon’s victory reflects “the increasing strength of the state party’s liberal activist core, which was energized by the election of Republican Donald Trump as president,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The endorsement of de Leon virtually ensures the state party will spend money promoting his campaign this fall.
The Los Angeles Times reported:
The endorsement can come with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money, which the de Leon campaign will have to help raise, as well as party volunteers and political organizing assistance. De Leon needs that support to increase his odds of victory in November. Feinstein had $7 million in campaign cash socked away as of May, 10 times what de Leon had.
What does this change?
Although it’s an embarrassment for Feinstein to lose her party’s endorsement, it may not change the race, analysts noted. Feinstein has greater name recognition, along with more cash and loyal followers across California. She won the June 5 primary with 44 percent of the vote, while de Leon had 12 percent.
"We are confident that a large majority of California Democrats will vote to reelect Sen. Feinstein in November," Jeff Millman, her campaign manager, said Saturday in an Associated Press report.
California has a top-two primary system that sends the two highest primary vote-getters to the general election without regard to party. De Leon took the number two spot by surpassing a number of unknown Republicans in the primary.
De Leon, 51, is the author of the state’s sanctuary state law, which became the target of a Trump administration lawsuit. A judge dismissed the case.
Feinstein, 85, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, and became the first woman to serve the state in that chamber. She is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is expected to play a role this summer in the Supreme Court nomination fight.