In their one and only face-to-face appearance before the November election, California’s candidates for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León exchanged policy visions in a subdued conversation at the Public Policy Institute of California, moderated by PPIC President Mark Baldassare.
The event was probably the last best chance for de León to make a strong impression on voters who are not paying close attention to the U.S. Senate race and who do not know nearly as much about him as they do about Feinstein.
There were very few moments that seemed to change the basic dynamic of the race in which polls show Feinstein with a healthy, if diminishing, lead.
But contrasts did emerge in the candidates' style — de León promised to take the "resistance" to the halls of the U.S Senate, while Feinstein cautioned that unless Democrats gain a majority in Congress, they shouldn't over-promise on results on issues like gun control.
“It’s very hard back there on issues like this," Feinstein said. "It’s not like here in California.”
And Feinstein said protests can only go so far to shift policy.
“What changes things are elections," she said.
De León said Democrats in Congress too often "backpeddle" on issues like immigration.
"I wish Democrats in Washington would fight like hell for Dreamers, the same way Donald J. Trump fights for his stupid wall," he said.
De León also criticized Feinstein's votes in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying "we need to get out of the business of bombing other nations."
The candidates found agreement on several points, including dislike of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to build two tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to convey water to Southern California.
And they agreed that a Medicare-for-All program should be created at the federal level, allowing for a public option on the health care market.
Weeks after Feinstein took center stage at the Senate Judiciary committee hearings of then-nominee Brett Kavanaugh, both candidates voiced support for a further investigation into the allegations of sexual assault against the newest Supreme Court justice.