Feinstein, 89, Faces Pressure Over 2024 as Porter Jumps Into Race

(Bloomberg Government) -- Rep. Katie Porter, a high-profile progressive in Congress, on Tuesday launched a campaign for the Senate seat of fellow California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who hasn’t announced whether she’ll seek another term in 2024.

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“Especially in times like these, California needs a warrior in Washington,” Porter said in a campaign video. She also filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to initiate a Senate bid.

Porter’s announcement may prod Feinstein into disclosing her intentions for the 2024 election. Feinstein, who’s been in office since 1992, is the longest-serving woman in the Senate and, at 89, the chamber’s oldest member. Feinstein declined to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate in the 118th Congress, a post usually held by the longest-serving senator of the majority party. She had less than $10,000 in her campaign account at the end of September.

“Everyone is of course welcome to throw their hat in the ring, and I will make an announcement concerning my plans for 2024 at the appropriate time,” according to a statement Feinstein provided to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Right now I’m focused on ensuring California has all the resources it needs to cope with the devastating storms slamming the state and leaving more than a dozen dead.”

Other Democrats including Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Ro Khanna may consider a Senate bid. Under California law, all candidates of all political affiliations will run on one primary ballot, with the top two finishers advancing to the general election. Democrats have won every Senate election in California since 1992, when Feinstein was first elected.

Porter—who drew attention to herself last week with her choice of reading material during the marathon of votes to choose a new House speaker—is a prolific fundraiser. Even after a close race in 2022, her campaign had $7.7 million banked as of Nov. 28. She’s permitted to use those funds for a Senate bid.

Porter quickly won an endorsement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Porter is “the type of progressive champion Californians need fighting for working families in the U.S. Senate,” PCCC co-founder Adam Green said in a statement.

A former law professor who has sat on the Oversight and Reform and Financial Services committees, Porter is known for grilling corporate executives and brandishing a whiteboard to underscore her points.

“I don’t do Congress the way others often do,” Porter said in the video. “I use whatever power I have to speak hard truths to the powers that be — to not just challenge the status quo, but call it out, name names, and demand justice.”

“Porter has a national following: Her fearsome whiteboard scares witnesses and delights Democrats who follow her on social media,” John J. Pitney Jr., a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in southern California, said in an e-mail.

Porter’s Senate bid will be aided by a super PAC called Women Have Initiative To Elect, Boost, and Organize for A Real Democrat (WHITEBOARD).

“As Katie Porter’s neighbor in Orange County I have seen Katie’s hardwork and tenacity holding the powerful accountable firsthand,” PAC Chair Lara Horgan, a Democratic activist and former vice chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said in a statement. “Many of Katie’s Orange County neighbors are excited to back her for US Senate. We need her voice fighting for all working families across California.”

Porter was first elected to the House in 2018 and has won three elections in a politically competitive district in Orange County, including a 52%-48% victory over former California assemblyman Scott Baugh (R) in 2022.

Her Senate bid will create an open-seat race in California’s 47th District, which includes Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, and Seal Beach. Baugh said on Twitter that he will run again in 2024. Ex-Rep. Harley Rouda (D) may also may run for the seat, which includes most of the territory Rouda represented from 2019-2021 before redistricting.

President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 55%-43% in the district in the 2020 election, though it was more competitive in 2022, backing Sen. Alex Padilla (D) by 51%-49% and preferring Republican governor nominee Brian Dahle over Democratic incumbent Gavin Newsom by 50.3%-49.7%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; George Cahlink at gcahlink@bloombergindustry.com

(Updates with Feinstein fundraising in the third paragraph and additional detail on Porter’s House district.)

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