Rep. Barbara Lee kicks off Senate campaign to replace Feinstein
Rep. Barbara Lee, a longtime favorite of the Liberal Democrats, confirmed Tuesday that she will run for the US Senate seat vacated by retired Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“For those who say my time is up, well, when does change go out of style? I do not give up. I do not give up. light up. It’s not in my DNA,” Lee said in a three-minute campaign launch video posted online early Tuesday morning. “Because when you stand on the side of justice, you don’t give up. If they don’t give you a seat at the table, you bring a folding chair for everyone,” she said.
The 76-year-old Oakland politician’s announcement came as no surprise, given that she told the Congressional Black Caucus last month that she wanted to run for the seat and last week submitted documents to create a Senate Funds Committee.
Lee’s political activism dates back more than half a century. She worked on the 1972 presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black congressman, and the following year on the Oakland mayoral campaign of Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale.
After serving in the California Legislature, Lee was elected to Congress in 1998. She rose to fame as the only congressman to vote against authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. More than two decades later, the concerns she expressed at the time are echoed by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Though previous efforts to join the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives have been unsuccessful, Lee has led the black and progressive factions of Congress.
Lee will face challenges in what is expected to be a tough race, which already includes Democrats Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine, both of whom are among the top fundraisers in Congress. Lee won re-election easily due to her district’s overwhelming Democratic leanings, and she’s never had to focus on campaign fundraising in those efforts.
To bolster their financial support, prominent strategists launched a super PAC called She Speaks for Me last week, which can accept unlimited donations.
“The idea is to level the playing field for someone who hasn’t had a history of raising large amounts of money for their local races and doesn’t have the war chests that their opponents have,” said Brian Brokaw, an adviser to the committee.
Brokaw and Dan Newman, another longtime Bay Area Democratic activist who is leading the outside effort, have extensive connections to donors focused on criminal justice reform that could be key to improving Lee’s prospects, particularly against Schiff, a former federal prosecutor.
For example, Brokaw has worked on several campaigns with Patricia Quillin, wife of billionaire Netflix leader Reed Hastings. Quillin, who shuns the limelight, has spent millions fighting a proposal that would have reclassified some offenses as felonies, backing an electoral measure that would have reintroduced affirmative action in California, and the election of George Gascón as District of Los Angeles County to assist attorney in what has been deemed a referendum on law enforcement reform.
One question few openly debate is Lee’s age and whether voters will replace Feinstein, an octogenarian, with a 70-year-old.
Lee attempted to quash that argument by telling supporters she would serve only one term, a move reported by the San Francisco Chronicle that confused many, including her supporters. Her supporters say age-related arguments are offensive given the congressmen’s decades of service and the number of seniors at the helm of the nation, particularly President Biden, 80.
In recent history, San Francisco Bay Area candidates have been far more successful than Southern Californians in running for California’s first statewide political offices, including Vice President Kamala Harris – elected Attorney General and then to the US Senate – Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Gov. Jerry Brown, Feinstein and former Senator Barbara Boxer.
The dominance is driven in part by the concentration of Liberal voters and the region’s high turnout, despite being less populated than Southern California, said San Francisco Democratic adviser Eric Jaye. The state’s Liberal voters will prioritize race and gender, and broadsides about Lee’s age would backfire, he said.
“We are in a time where representation is often the most important criterion in executive selection,” said Jaye. “When you add up the voices from Northern California and the voices of African Americans across the state, and you add progressives who remember their voice on the Iraq war, she has a lead.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-02-21/rep-barbara-lee-senate-campaign-dianne-feinstein-katie-porter-adam-schiff Rep. Barbara Lee kicks off Senate campaign to replace Feinstein