Fe­in­stein fights to deny Demo­cratic ri­val of­fi­cial party nod

Manteca Bulletin - - State -

SACRA­MENTO ( AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein is tap­ping into her po­lit­i­cal Rolodex to con­vince Cal­i­for­nia Demo­cratic Party lead­ers to not for­mally en­dorse a can­di­date in her Novem­ber race against fel­low Demo­crat Kevin de Leon.

She says it’s to avoid an in­tra­party fight, but her ef­fort if suc­cess­ful will thwart her long­shot ri­val’s very real chance at cap­tur­ing the party nod when the com­mit­tee votes Satur­day.

A 26-year in­cum­bent like Fe­in­stein wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily find her­self in this po­si­tion but does for a cou­ple of rea­sons: The party has moved far­ther left in the Trump era, and Fe­in­stein hasn’t spent time courting the ac­tivists who make up the ex­ec­u­tive board, many of whom have long been skep­ti­cal of her. De Leon, mean­while, has en­gaged with them for years as a state sen­a­tor from Los An­ge­les and for­mer leader of the cham­ber.

A party en­dorse­ment would be a des­per­ately needed boost to his cam­paign and an em­bar­rass­ment to Fe­in­stein.

She made the case against en­dorse­ment to party lead­ers through let­ters and emails fea­tur­ing po­lit­i­cal al­lies in­clud­ing Planned Par­ent­hood of Cal­i­for­nia chief ex­ec­u­tive Crys­tal Strait, la­bor icon Dolores Huerta and for­mer state party Chair­man John Bur­ton.

Six Demo­cratic can­di­dates seek­ing to flip Repub­li­can-held U.S. House seats crit­i­cal to the party’s hopes of tak­ing back Con­gress also im­plored del­e­gates not to weigh in. Fe­in­stein and fel­low Cal­i­for­nia U.S. Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris hosted a fundraiser Wed­nes­day night in Wash­ing­ton for those six can­di­dates and two oth­ers.

“A di­vi­sive party en­dorse­ment for U.S. Se­nate would hurt all down bal­lot can­di­dates and our abil­ity to turn out Democrats we des­per­ately need to vote in Novem­ber,” their let­ter warned. “We urge you to vote no en­dorse­ment and let the re­spec­tive cam­paigns make their own case to vot­ers for the gen­eral elec­tion.” The let­ter an­gered de Leon back­ers. “They’re try­ing to send some sort of mes­sage that if you sup­port Kevin de Leon you’ll be seen as a spoiler and not play­ing nice in Demo­cratic Party politics,” said RL Miller, chair of the party’s en­vi­ron­men­tal cau­cus and an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Mem­bers like Miller say de Leon has more pro­gres­sive bonafides as the au­thor of Cal­i­for­nia’s so-called sanc­tu­ary state law and bills to ex­pand clean en­ergy. Fe­in­stein, for her part, voted against end­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down ear­lier this year with­out pro­tec­tions for young im­mi­grants liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally af­ter some protested out­side her of­fice. She also re­cently re­versed her long-held sup­port for the death penalty, an is­sue she used in the 1990s to show her in­de­pen­dence from her party.

De Leon nearly won the en­dorse­ment at the party con­ven­tion last winter but fell just short of the 60-per- cent thresh­old needed in a vote by thou­sands of del­e­gates. Fe­in­stein later de­mol­ished him in the June pri­mary, 44 per­cent to 12 per­cent. Un­der Cal­i­for­nia’s top-two sys­tem, he still ad­vanced to the Novem­ber elec­tion be­cause he fin­ished se­cond in the field of more than 30 can­di­dates.

Round two of the party en­dorse­ment fight comes this week­end, when about 360 ex­ec­u­tive board mem­bers gather in Oak­land. De Leon’s cam­paign and party of­fi­cials be­lieve he’s in reach of cap­tur­ing the en­dorse­ment. Be­yond gar­ner­ing head­lines, it means the party would spend money on de Leon’s be­half and pro­mote him along­side other Demo­cratic can­di­dates such as gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Gavin New­som.

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