Cupertino Courier

Rep. Ro Khanna opts out of Senate run to succeed Feinstein

Congressma­n plans to co-chair Barbara Lee's campaign

- By Jakob Rodgers jrodgers@bayareanew­

Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna removed himself from considerat­ion in the race to succeed longtime California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Sunday morning, opting instead to side with another Bay Area representa­tive in one of the most closely watched Senate battles in years.

Khanna told CNN'S Jake Tapper on the “State of the Union” show that he planned to endorse East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee and work as her campaign co-chair in the 2024 race for Feinstein's seat.

“I have concluded that despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie (Sanders) folks, the best place, the most exciting place, the action place, for me to serve as a progressiv­e is in the House of Representa­tives,” Khanna said on the program, adding that “we need a strong anti-war senator, and she will play that role.”

The move begins to crystalize a once-in-a-generation political battle to succeed Feinstein, who announced her retirement last month after having served more than 30 years in the Senate. While Lee ranks as the most prominent Northern California politician to announce a campaign for the seat, she faces stiff competitio­n from two representa­tives based in Southern California: Reps. Adam Schiff of Los Angeles and Katie Porter of Irvine.

While Khanna on Sunday said he has “respect” for Schiff and Porter, he sought to spotlight Lee's 25year record in Congress and her “unique voice” while endorsing her bid for the Senate.

“She was the lone vote against the endless war in Afghanista­n. She stood up so strongly against the war in Iraq. She worked with me in stopping — trying to stop — the war in Yemen and the War Powers Resolution,” Khanna told Tapper. “And frankly, Jake, representa­tion matters. We don't have a single African American woman in the United States Senate. She would fill that role. She'll be the only candidate from Northern California and she's going to consolidat­e a lot of progressiv­es.

“The other two are formidable candidates. But I think Barbara Lee is going to be very, very strong.”

The move signals consolidat­ing support in the Bay Area for Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998 and has long been viewed as one of the most progressiv­e members of the Democratic caucus. She was the only member of Congress to vote against the use of military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and has since become the highestran­king Black woman appointed to House Democratic leadership.

Khanna's decision also highlights the work remaining for him to boost his name recognitio­n elsewhere in the state — even as he wields considerab­le sway among Bay Area progressiv­es and across Democratic fundraisin­g circles, said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.

“He's certainly someone with a lot of political promise,” Kousser said. “But this may be a recognitio­n that it's not yet his time to run for a stateside, top-of-the-ticket seat.”

Khanna's endorsemen­t Sunday comes as Lee faces an uphill climb to the Senate seat. Schiff garnered an outsized number of endorsemen­ts shortly after announcing his campaign, including from Rep. Nancy Pelosi and from Leon Panetta, who spent time as secretary of the Department of Defense and as director of the CIA.

A recent Berkeley Institute of Government Studies poll of registered Democrats and unaffiliat­ed voters showed Lee facing an early disadvanta­ge against Schiff and Porter.

Twenty-two percent of respondent­s backed Schiff, while 20% backed Porter. In contrast, Lee garnered support from 6% of respondent­s, while 4% of respondent­s backed Khanna.

Still, the UC Berkeley IGS poll also showed fertile ground for each candidate among undecided voters. The largest share of respondent­s — 39% — said they had yet to make a decision about who to support in the race. Another 8% said they planned to support someone else.

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