How to beat Dianne Feinstein? Contrasts, Senate rival says
By MICHAEL R. BLOOD
Oct. 18, 2017
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Democratic state legislator who wants to oust Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year knows he'll be at a disadvantage at fundraising, and his name, Kevin de Leon, would elicit a blank stare from many voters.
So how does he make the case that he's the right man for Capitol Hill?
Contrasts, de Leon says.
New ideas against the status quo. A tougher response to the agenda of President Donald Trump. New energy. Humble immigrant roots versus wealth.
As two Democrats, Feinstein and De Leon share much of the same policy terrain. But "there are differences," he told reporters.
De Leon publicly kicked off his campaign Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles to retire the long-serving Feinstein, three days after disclosing his intentions in an online announcement.
By standard measures he enters the race as a long shot, facing a stalwart of Democratic politics who's been in office for a generation and is widely popular among Democrats who dominate the state.
But to de Leon, Feinstein is out of touch.
In a speech to cheering supporters and union members, the 50-year-old de Leon never attacked Feinstein by name or mentioned that she is the oldest member of the Senate, at 84.
But he made clear in lightly veiled references, and more directly to reporters later, that he believed her time had passed in Washington.
In changed times, with Trump in the White House, California needs "new ideas and new energy," he said.
The Washington "playbook," de Leon added, "is obsolete."
De Leon's entry into the 2018 race sets up a rivalry that is likely to be colored by age and ethnic differences, the state's longstanding north-south rivalry, and rifts between liberals and centrist Democrats that have divided the party nationwide.
The moderate Feinstein is a wealthy former San Francisco mayor who can trace her political start to a time when Richard Nixon was in the White House.
In a speech occasionally peppered with Spanish, de Leon referred repeatedly to growing up with a single immigrant mother in Southern California, and he spoke often of the state's diversity. "I will never be a man of financial riches," he said.
He said it was no time for capitulation in Washington, echoing his criticism of Feinstein last summer after she suggested Trump could learn to become a "good president."
Talking with reporters later, he acknowledged that Feinstein would have a significant edge in campaign dollars. But he suggested the campaign could turn on differences in their life stories and issues people care about.
"We can't cross our fingers and hope Trump can learn and change," he said.
Feinstein's chief strategist, Bill Carrick, said it was ludicrous for de Leon to suggest he would be a stronger foil to Trump. With seats on several of the most powerful panels on Capitol Hill — the Judiciary, Appropriations and Intelligence committees — Feinstein has been a frequent Democratic critic against Trump and his agenda.
The race, Carrick said, "is going to be about who can do a better job for California, who can we count on to have influence and clout to make sure we are not damaged by the Trump administration."
"She's on two committees that are investigating Trump," Carrick added.
Patty Shenker, 66, a retired real estate investor, was among supporters in the crowd who said it was a time for a change.
Feinstein "is way too much in the middle," she said, referring to the senator's centrist politics. "It's time for new blood."