Kavanaugh Confirmation Process Spills Into California Senate Race

3 min
Kevin de León and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Justin Sullivan and Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has spilled into California’s U.S. Senate race.

Former state Senate leader Kevin de León has worked hard to highlight the distinctions between himself and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats. So when news broke that Feinstein kept quiet for over a month about a letter she received from a woman claiming Kavanaugh had assaulted her, de León pounced. He called Feinstein’s failure to disclose the letter a “failure of leadership.”

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said de León is coming hard for Feinstein.

“It’s easy to be aggressive when you’re Sen. Kevin de León and you’re facing a huge uphill battle," she said.

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But at the same time, Levinson said de León must walk a fine line with his message.

"(He’s trying to say) even though I’m running against a woman who’s been in the Senate for a long time and has been a trailblazer in many ways, she’s simply out of touch and she doesn’t get this and she didn’t handle these accusations correctly," Levinson said.

But De León wasn’t immune to the #MeToo story. His one-time roommate, former state Sen. Tony Mendoza, resigned following sexual harassment allegations. And women criticized de León for not doing enough to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the state Senate while he was leading the chamber.

Samantha Corbin, who co-founded We Said Enough, which helped lead female activists calling out sexual harassment in the state Capitol, notes Feinstein kept the letter private at the request of its author, Christine Blasey Ford.

"Even if Dianne Feinstein had come forward and said, 'I’m going to ignore the request of a woman who’s come forward, a constituent, who’s afraid, and rightfully so, and I’m going to release at least the facts of the story,' she would have, in essence, been outing Dr. Ford," Corbin said.

De León’s campaign notes his statement made clear that Ford’s anonymity should have been protected.

Steve Smith is a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, which is backing de León in the Senate race. While his group believes Feinstein acted thoughtfully in regard to the letter, Smith said they understand why de León is concerned about it.

“I think that it’s up to voters to decide whether those concerns are valid or not," he said. "But I think certainly raising an issue like this is well within the bounds for any electoral race.”

Regardless if this argument sticks or not, law professor Levinson said this is not something Feinstein wants to be dealing with right now.

“I do not think that she wanted to be discussing whether she handled these accusations correctly, whether she was supportive enough for Dr. Ford," she said, "and whether or not she took all the steps that she could have taken.”

Those are questions de León will likely keep bringing up as he continues making his case to voters.

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