California Democrats Snub Feinstein, Endorse Challenger Instead

July 15, 2018 Updated: July 16, 2018    

On July 14, the California Democratic Party endorsed liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate, offering a stunning rebuke to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for reelection this year.

The loss of Feinstein, a 25-year incumbent who was running for a fifth full term, is a sign the party is shifting further left, as de León is the main author of SB54, a controversial sanctuary state law. The endorsement draws similar parallels to Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise win over long-serving Rep. Joe Crowley in the New York primary in June.

Voting results revealed a total of 217 delegates (65 percent) voted for de León, while only 22 (7 percent) voted for Feinstein. Over 60 percent of the vote is needed to secure an endorsement. Another 94 delegates (28 percent) voted for no endorsement.

“Earning the endorsement of so many leaders and activists of the California Democratic Party isn’t just an honor and a privilege; today’s vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington,” de León said in a statement after the win.

The 51-year-old challenger also touted the news as a sign “for a new generation of leadership.” Feinstein is 85 years old.

This is the second time the California Democratic Party has declined Feinstein’s reelection bid. In February at the party’s San Diego convention, where a larger contingent of 2,700 delegates voted, she managed to get 37 percent of votes. At the time, de León also fell short, garnering 54 percent of the vote.

California State Senator Kevin de León delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

Before Saturday’s vote, Feinstein allegedly had little hope of winning her party’s support. Earlier, she had urged leaders not to endorse any candidate at all for the upcoming November election, calling for party unity instead, according to media reports.

It’s unclear how big of an impact the recent endorsement will have on the upcoming general election, but it may help with campaign contributions that de León will also need to raise. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Feinstein had $7 million cash on hand in her campaign as of May this year. Meanwhile, de León had raised $693,689.