Battle heating up already for Feinstein’s Senate seat
SAN JOSE — A once-in-a-generation political battle is heating up in California as candidates begin to spar over Dianne Feinstein’s coveted Senate seat, promising reverberations that will shake up everything from representation in the U.S. House to local Bay Area elections.
It’s exceedingly rare — like snow in San Jose rare — for one of California’s two U.S. Senate seats to hit the ballot without an incumbent running. But that’s exactly what may happen in 2024 when many expect Feinstein, a Democrat who is almost 90 and reportedly facing cognitive decline, to retire.
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, an Orange County Democrat, made waves this past week when she became the first to officially declare her candidacy for Feinstein’s seat. And several of the Golden State’s representatives in the U.S. House, including locals Barbara Lee from the East Bay and Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley, as well as Adam Schiff from Southern California, have shown interest in the seat Feinstein has held since 1992.
Others, including Rep. Eric Swalwell from the East Bay — who was 12 when Feinstein took office — also have been mentioned as contenders. If they run, the scramble could open the door for a new generation of ambitious Democrats to slip into those vacated House seats, providing a chance for termed-out local mayors, county supervisors and city council members to move up the political ladder without facing off against an entrenched opponent.
“There are a lot of people who will be looking at this as an opportunity,” said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University.
The election is still nearly two years away. And what’s more, Feinstein — who has been adamant she won’t leave office until she’s good and ready — hasn’t even hinted that she won’t seek reelection in 2024. But the fact that the feeding frenzy already has begun shows it’s going to be a crowded, dramatic and expensive race.
“It could be a cast of thousands,” joked Larry Gerston, professor emeritus of politics at San Jose State University. “These things don’t come up very often. It’s a gem of a position to have, that’s for sure.”
Landing a seat in the U.S. Senate is scoring one of the “ultimate” jobs in politics, Gerston said. It’s an exclusive club with just 100 members, and it can serve as a springboard to the presidency.
Porter got some blowback for the timing of her announcement — in the midst of damaging storms and flooding that have resulted in multiple deaths across the state. But she put pressure on other prospective candidates to make a move, McCuan said.