- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The 2024 Senate race taking shape in California guarantees that the solidly liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be replaced by someone much further to the left.

On Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Lee became the third California Democrat to throw her hat into the ring, following the likes of Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Katie Porter. The trio of lawmakers will now duke it out for the nomination. 

“This is, in many ways, a defining moment for California’s future because the state’s going through the out-moving of population, economic changes, climate changes, the general sense of some chaos,” said veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “People are going to want to look to somebody who can stabilize this [and] will be seen as more to the left and a fighter for the state. That could fit any of the three.”

Mrs. Feinstein, 89, announced last week she would not seek reelection next year. Although a reliable champion of liberal causes like environmental regulations and gun control, the younger generation of Democrats vying to replace her are further left.

Each has separated themselves into different lanes: Mr. Schiff as the anti-Trump champion; Ms. Porter as the champion of working families against Wall Street and corporations; and Ms. Lee as the career-long advocate for people of color and progressive causes.

Mr. Schiff, 62, enjoys a massive fundraising advantage out of the gate. As of the end of December — the most recent data available from the Federal Election Commission — Mr. Schiff had nearly $21 million in the bank compared to Ms. Porter’s roughly $7.4 million and Ms. Lee‘s $52,000.

His high-profile posts as House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman and impeachment manager against President Trump bolster his name recognition, but that notoriety could be fading. He is also running for a seat long held by a woman in a state that for decades had two female senators until Sen. Alex Padilla succeeded Kamala Harris who left to serve as vice president.

“A lot of voters have really moved beyond Trump. Not just Democratic votes, but quite frankly I think a lot of Republican voters have as well,” said Kimberly Ellis, a Democratic strategist based in California who supports Ms. Lee but does not make official endorsements. “We reject wholeheartedly the idea that we, California, would replace both of our senators with men.”

Still, Mr. Schiff is considered the early front-runner. He’s made taking on the ex-president the crown jewel of his tenure in Congress, as evidenced by his campaign website.  

“Adam has been — and will continue to be — on the frontlines of the fight for the heart and soul of our democracy,” it reads. “It is time for Congress to act again, and enact new protections for our democratic institutions to ensure another wannabe autocrat like Trump cannot push our democracy to the brink.”

Mr. Schiff’s other priorities include elections and voting laws, climate change, the economy and health care.

Ms. Lee is running on her experiences and achievements as a Black woman, in addition to her progressive credentials. Her priorities include climate change, poverty and homelessness, social justice and abortion access.

The 74-year-old, who’s served in the House since 1998, took a thinly veiled swipe at her Democratic opponents Tuesday by suggesting they were not liberal through and through.

“When you look at the issues I’ve championed over the years, some call me the OG: Not original genius, it’s original gangster,” Ms. Lee told KTVU, a local Fox News affiliate. “I’ve been out there fighting for structural change, institutional change, not tinkering around the edges.”

Ms. Porter is promising to “fight to protect consumers, taxpayers, and middle-class families,” her campaign site reads. A former consumer protection attorney, the 49-year-old has a lot of parallels with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the 73-year-old Massachusetts Democrat who regularly takes on Wall Street and corporations.

Ms. Porter is a leading proponent of barring members of Congress and their families from trading stocks. Her claim to fame is the use of visual representations like whiteboards to press witnesses at congressional hearings.

Katie‘s running because California needs our best warrior in Washington to stand up to Mitch McConnell, big corporations, and the special interests that try to rig the rules against our families,” her campaign site says.

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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