California elects Feinstein to 5th full US Senate term
“This is such a great country and it’s been factionalized and it’s been trivialized with rhetoric,” Feinstein told supporters in San Francisco before results were declared. “We must stop that.”
Feinstein faced state Sen. Kevin de Leon, who argued that California deserved a new voice in Washington more willing to fight for progressive values.
At 85, Feinstein is the oldest U.S. senator. De Leon, 51, never directly made Feinstein’s age an issue but frequently referenced the need for a “new voice” and “new vision” in Washington.
Feinstein was first elected to the Senate in 1992 after serving as San Francisco’s first woman mayor. Senate terms last six years.
Unlike other challenges to incumbents from the left, de Leon’s bid against Feinstein failed to generate much attention and energy, perhaps because the seat was a lock for Democrats regardless. California sends the two candidates with the highest primary votes to the general election regardless of their party, and Republicans failed to put up any serious contenders.
Many Republican voters simply took a pass in the contest.
The race was California’s second U.S. Senate contest in recent years in which two Democrats faced off. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris defeated U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez for California’s other seat in 2016.
Even though de Leon criticized Feinstein for being too soft against Trump, she drew the president’s ire this fall during the fiery confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A California woman, Christine Blasey Ford, sent Feinstein a letter during the summer accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, which he denies.
Feinstein kept the letter confidential for weeks but later turned it over to the FBI. Trump and Republicans accused her of leaking the letter to the press in an attempt to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation;
Trump supporters even chanted “lock her up!” about Feinstein during a rally. Feinstein denies leaking the letter and has defended her handling of the situation.
She largely brushed off her challenger, appearing just once with him on stage and ignoring most of his criticism about her style and record.
Instead, she focused on her tenure and seniority in Washington to argue she’s been an effective voice for California. Some of the key accomplishments she’s cited, such as passing the California Desert Protection Act and authoring the now-expired federal assault weapons ban, happened more than 20 years ago during her first years in Washington.
Trump did sign a law by Feinstein this year mandating reporting of accusations of sexual assault in amateur athletics, a rare feat of bipartisanship in a heavily divided Washington. After the February mass shooting at a Florida high school, Trump suggested there could be movement on her gun control efforts, but it never happened.
Feinstein also introduced legislation to stop the separation of families at the border and argued for permanent protections for people who entered the country illegally as children with their parents.
But she’s faced pressure from immigrant groups that argue she hasn’t done enough to fight for comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship.