Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California said Tuesday she will seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat and the oldest member of the chamber.
“Especially in times like these, California needs a warrior in Washington," Porter said in a video posted on Twitter. “That's exactly why I'm announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate in 2024.”
Porter is a progressive Democrat who was first elected to Congress in 2018 and won a tight race for reelection to her newly redrawn Southern California district in November. She said in the video that she has “challenged the status quo" in Washington, taking on “big banks,” Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry. She wants to ban members of Congress from stock trading.
“To win these fights, it's time for new leadership in the U.S. Senate," she said.
Feinstein, 89, has for several years faced questions about her health and whether she will seek another term. She has not announced whether she will seek reelection in 2024, though she is widely expected to retire.
“Everyone is of course welcome to throw their hat in the ring, and I will make an announcement concerning my plans for 2024 at the appropriate time," Feinstein, who won her sixth election in 2018 said in a statement Tuesday. She added that she is currently “focused on ensuring California has all the resources it needs” to deal with deadly storms hitting the state.
Porter’s announcement, which came as torrential rains and mudslides forced thousands from their homes and were blamed for the deaths of over a dozen people, could be the start of a competitive race between multiple candidates in the heavily Democratic state. Republicans haven’t won a statewide race in California since 2006, and with Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer having their seats locked up for a quarter century, several Democrats have been waiting for their chance.
Among the potential candidates is Rep. Adam Schiff, who was a key figure in impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump and has said he's exploring a Senate run. Rep. Ro Khanna told NBC News on Tuesday that he is focused on “historic weather conditions” his district is facing and that he will make a decision “in the next few months.”
Feinstein was elected for the sixth time in 2018. Noticeably more frail than in previous years and occasionally forgetful when asked questions, she holds no senior leadership positions, makes fewer public appearances and is no longer the force she was in the Senate. She stepped down from her post as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in 2020 and also declined to take the post of Senate pro tempore this year after the retirement of Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
The Senate president pro tempore, third in line to the presidency, usually goes automatically to the most senior member of the majority party. As the de facto president of the Senate when the vice president is away, the president pro tempore has several jobs, including opening the Senate every day that it is in session.
While Feinstein is the most senior Senate Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave the post to Washington Sen. Patty Murray after Feinstein indicated she would not take it. In a statement released by a spokesman last year, she said “I’ve never thought about being the president pro tempore and I have no interest in it at this time.”
Feinstein also has seen pushback from Democrats who view her as too bipartisan at a time when politics is more polarized and her state is increasingly liberal. She was criticized in 2020 for being too friendly with Republicans during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. That included an embrace of the Republican Chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, at the conclusion of the hearings and kind words for what she called a job well done.
Feinstein has defended her performance and said in 2021 that she planned to serve her full term, even as there was open speculation and discussion about the future of the seat. Gov. Gavin Newson said in 2021 that he would appoint a Black woman to replace Feinstein, who's white, if she were to retire early.
Porter, 49, was a consumer protection attorney before her election to the House, and she has earned a reputation for her tough questioning of CEOs and other witnesses at congressional hearings — often using a whiteboard to break down information.
Porter's media savvy was again on display during the recent meltdown in the U.S. House over the election of a new speaker. As Republicans argued, Porter was seen sitting in the chamber, disinterestedly, reading a book on “the subtle art” of not caring about what's happening.
Porter also has been one of the top fundraisers in the House, having spent more than $24 million on her reelection to the House last year. The Tuesday announcement allows her to get a head start on banking money and securing donors' support.
Her opponent in the November House election, Republican Scott Baugh, said Tuesday that he will again run for the closely contested House district in 2024.
Burnett reported from Chicago. Associated Press reporter Michael Blood contributed from California.