State Democrats Endorse de León for U.S. Senate Over Feinstein

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The California Democratic Party voted to endorse state Sen. Kevin de León (R) over U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (L) for U.S. Senate. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images and Bert Johnson/KQED)

Updated Saturday, 9 p.m.

The California Democratic Party’s executive board voted Saturday night to endorse state Sen. Kevin de León for U.S. Senate over Sen. Dianne Feinstein. De León received 65 percent of the vote, compared to just 7 percent for Feinstein. An endorsement required 60 percent.

"Today’s vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington, D.C.," said de León in a statement after the vote. "We have presented Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook in a quarter-century. As the California Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, I renew my call for a debate."

Twenty-eight percent of board members voted to offer no endorsement, which is what Feinstein had urged them to do throughout the day, as a show of "party unity."

The endorsement is a boost to de León's challenge of Feinstein and an increase in support from the party’s convention in February, where he received 54 percent of delegate votes, compared to 37 percent for Feinstein.

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In the June primary, de León got only 12 percent of the vote — compared to Feinstein's 44 percent — and narrowly made it to the November election under the state's top-two primary system.

“I mean, this was not a close primary election, and there were 32 people on the ballot,” Feinstein said at a "party unity" breakfast on Saturday morning. “I take nothing for granted. We work hard. I work hard.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein held a party unity breakfast at the California Democrat Executive Board Meeting.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein held a party unity breakfast at the California Democratic Party's executive board meeting. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

She said then that even if de León did get the endorsement, it would not change her campaign.

Feinstein’s supporters spent the day arguing that the Democrats need her seniority and experience in the Senate to most effectively push back against the agenda of President Trump and congressional Republicans.

"I think there are a lot of 'Berniecrats' who would like to support de León and they think about change,” said board member Julie Soo early in the day. “Change is good but not in tumultuous times like we are now, and we need some continuity. ... In Washington, D.C., you don’t get the good committee spot when you’re a newbie.”

But supporters of de León are promoting a different strategy to fight back against Republican policies. They say Feinstein has lost her edge, and de León would breathe new life into the Democratic Party.

“I’ve known Dianne Feinstein since she was mayor of San Francisco, and she’s done a good job and I’ve got no problem with her at all,” said board member Domenic Torchia before the vote. “It’s just time that we get some young blood in there and start moving on to get rid of the Trump administration [and] all the damage they’ve done.”

The meeting continues on Sunday with votes expected on the 12 statewide measures appearing on the November ballot, including Proposition 10, which would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

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