The top Democratic challenger to California State Senator Dianne Feinstein has raised concerns that Feinstein doesn’t fully understand just how deep Californians’ opposition to President Donald Trump runs.
Sen. Kevin de León, 51, is one of Feinstein’s primary challengers, and with California’s “top two” primary system, California voters chose between two Democrats for the U.S. Senate in November for the second statewide election in a row. State Sen. de León placed second in the top-two primary, earning a spot on the general election ballot with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“The two Democrats will square off on Nov. 6 in a contest that pits Feinstein’s decades of political strength as a moderate against De León’s potential appeal to progressives and Latinos,” reports the LA Times.
His primary attack against Feinstein has been her lack of serious opposition to President Donald Trump’s administration. She came under fire recently from progressives for her beliefs that Trump “can be a good president” if he was open to change. De León disagrees with Feinstein, stating:
“When you have a president who mocks our inclusivity, who demonizes our diversity . . . you can’t ask for patience,” former state Sen. Kevin de León said in a recent interview with the Washington Post.
Here’s what you need to know about de León:
1. California’s Top-Two System Gave de León the Chance to Challenge Feinstein in November on the General Election Ballot
Because of California’s unusual top-two system, sometimes known as a “jungle primary,” candidates from both parties vie for the top two spots in the primary and then go on to face off in the general election, regardless of party. As of late Wednesday, California’s count came in and de León took the second spot on the November ballot.
Although de León has only raised $1.1 million to Feinstein’s $14.6, the underdog seems to be moving up in the polls, coming within 6 points of securing the nomination at the California Democratic Party convention in February. Feinstein also took a hit at the Democratic convention when the party declined to endorse Feinstein’s quest for a sixth term.This came shortly after de León also secured a big endorsement from the labor union SEIU, according to Slate.
De Leon’s campaign often focuses on the fact that Feinstein hasn’t been breaking 50 percent in polls “despite her near-universal name recognition in her home state, and that a second-place primary finish could put him on more even footing with Feinstein,” according to ABC.
Vox reports that de Leon has been zeroing in on California progressives who believe that a powerful senator such as Feinstein should be a much louder voice in opposition to Trump’s agenda, especially considering California has been an “epicenter of the Trump resistance movement” over the last few years.
2. De León’s Campaign Focuses Heavily on Clean Energy, Raising Minimum Wage, Immigration Reform & Fighting Climate Change
De León’s campaign puts a lot of emphasis on clean energy, more comprehensive immigration reform, pushing for a $15 minimum wage, and securing a Medicare-for-all agenda, according to his official campaign site.
“He has ushered a bold agenda to increase economic opportunity for all Californians with a focus on maintaining California’s global leadership role in fighting climate change and building a clean-energy economy, rebuilding our state’s infrastructure, public education, work-place and health-care, equity for women, immigrants and low-wage workers and public safety,” his site says.
De León has helped establish California’s reputation as a recognized global leader in the battle against climate change, emphasizes the importance of stopping diesel pollution, and put California on a path to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
He considers himself a voice for the working class, a champion of women’s rights, and is working to protect California’s undocumented immigrants. De León passed SB 54, otherwise known as the California Values Act, which “prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes,” according to his page.
3. Shortly After Announcing His Campaign, Misconduct Allegations Against de León’s Roommate Surfaced
Shortly after de León announced his intentions to challenge one of California’s first two female senators, the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke and unleashed a flood of sexual harassment accusations against several California legislators, according to The Sacramento Bee.
At the time the news broke, de León shared a Sacramento apartment with State Senator Tony Mendoza. Mendoza was put under investigation for misconduct allegations after the Bee reported that he had invited a young woman to his home to review résumés for full-time employment.
De León inevitably spent his first legislative floor session of 2018 with his caucus deciding whether Mendoza should step down or not. He ultimately agreed to do so temporarily with pay, the Bee reports.
4. De León Taught English as a Second Language and Advocated for Funding in Low-Income Neighborhood Schools
According to his campaign site, Senator de León is the son of a single immigrant mother who supported her family in San Diego working as a housekeeper. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college.
“De León attended U.C. Santa Barbara and graduated from Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges with honors. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California,” his site states. He has one daughter.
Before entering into politics, the senator was a community organizer and taught English as a Second Language and assisted people attempting to get their U.S. citizenship. He fought for more funding for schools in low-income neighborhoods, better school construction and full health coverage for all children.
“Senator de León was elected by his colleagues to lead the Senate in 2014, making him the first Latino to hold that position in over a century,” according to the site. “Prior to that, Kevin served four years in the Assembly before his election to the Senate in 2010.”
De León was instrumental in passing the state’s landmark climate change law, as well as a controversial piece of legislation to enact a single-payer healthcare system in California.
5. De León Has His Work Cut Out For Him if He Plans to Beat Feinstein in November
De León has his work cut out for him if he plans to beat Feinstein in November. According to Five Thirty Eight, Feinstein is heavily favored to win, with recent polls putting her as much as 24 points ahead of de León. Feinstein has been re-elected five times to the Senate, and is an important person in the national party.
De León is also not well-known beyond his Los Angeles district, and has never run statewide, according to CNN. “He struggled to raise money even from allies who had supported him at the Statehouse, in part because of the reverence for Feinstein and because many Democrats did not want to lose her seniority in the Senate,” CNN reports.
“I think this is a moment,” former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said in an interview with the Bee. “I think Dianne will win because she has a great record, and she deserves to win. She represents the progress that women have made.”
That hasn’t put a damper on de León’s campaign however. According to ABC, they feel confident that de Leon has a chance at beating Feinstein in November. De León told Vox that Democrats are ready for a change in California.
“A lot of Democrats gave us a lot of wind behind our sails, with the belief that it is time for a change,” de León told Vox. “It’s time to have a voice that’s reflective of today’s California, not the California of a quarter-century ago.”