Skip to main content

US Senate Candidates Differ On California Democratic Party Endorsement

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif and California state Senate president pro tem ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif and California state Senate president pro tem and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Kevin de Leon are shown in this undated photo.

A vote by California Democratic Party leaders later this month could start a dust-up in the party.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has already proven she’s a favorite among California Democrats. She got 44 percent of the vote in the June primary compared to state Sen. Kevin de Leon’s 12 percent.

But Feinstein said in a letter Tuesday that she wants the party’s leadership, for the sake of unity, to refrain from endorsing either of the candidates when the party meets in Oakland later this month.

Neither Feinstein nor her fellow Democratic challenger De Leon won the party's endorsement in February. It was the first time in 30 years that Feinstein failed to get her party's support.

UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser said Feinstein's request to the party leadership to stay neutral is less about unity and more about trying to thwart potential humiliation in case the party leadership is leaning toward backing De Leon.

"In this very blue state of California, I don’t think the Democrats are at all at risk of losing the senate seat, the governor’s race or any of the high-profile races they’re favored in because of an inner-party split," Kousser said. "In other words, I don't see there being a cost to the Democratic Party if they make an endorsement."

In the meantime, De Leon is pressing the party to endorse him.

“This is a last Hail Mary in a campaign that is struggling right now," Kousser said. "He is very popular among party activists and party loyalists, the people who pick who can win the party’s endorsement. This is his chance to play to one of his strengths and turn it into something that can broadcast his appeal to the strong left progressives across the state.”

Kousser said the kind of jockeying of state Democratic Party leadership by Feinstein and De Leon is to be expected when you have two candidates with similar ideologies going against each other because of California's top-two primary system.

"You see those internal flights within the party being the main form of competitive politics in California," Kousser said.

US Senate Candidates Differ On California Democratic Party Endorsement

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.