LOS ANGELES — State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon formally began his campaign for the U.S. Senate Oct. 18 at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, saying it is time for California to play a leadership role in the nation’s governance.
“As a state, we are 12 percent of the nation, 17 percent of its job growth and 25 percent of its GDP growth,” he said. “We have the fastest-growing companies and the largest and most diverse work force in America.
“We’re also a state that passionately agrees that every human deserves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, no matter who you are, where you come from, … what god you pray to, what language you speak or who you love,” he said.
In announcing his plans to challenge his fellow Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein Oct. 15, de Leon said his legislative record “infused progressive California values in important policy efforts like immigration, women’s rights, quality education, civil rights, job creation and fighting climate change.
“I was raised by a single mother with a third-grade education,” de Leon said in an email. “She worked her hands to the bone cleaning houses to provide for me and I have never forgiven those humble roots.”
De Leon, D-Los Angeles, said he will stand against President Donald Trump’s administration, which he says “disregards our voices, demonizes our diversity” and “attacks our civil rights, our clean air, our health access and our public safety.”
Speaking to the crowd at Trade Tech, de Leon said government should not separate families through deportation.
“We celebrate diversity,” he said. “We don’t deport it. We don’t ban it and we sure as hell don’t wall it off. Not in California.”
According to his state Senate biography, de Leon, 50, was raised in the San Diego barrio of Logan Heights. He graduated from Pitzer College, was a community organizer, taught English as a second language and U.S. citizenship courses, and worked for the California Teachers Association and National Education Association.
De Leon served in the Assembly in 2006-2010, was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and as president pro tem in 2014.
The 84-year-old Feinstein announced Oct. 9 that she plans to seek a fifth full term.
“I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to health care, I’m all in!” she tweeted.
Feinstein was first elected in 1992 to fill the remaining two years of the term Republican Pete Wilson was elected to in 1988, then resigned after defeating Feinstein to be elected governor in 1990.
The day after she announced her candidacy for a fifth full term, Feinstein held a fundraising reception in Beverly Hills. The suggested contributions were $1,000, $2,700 and $5,400, and $100 for young professionals.
The contribution limit to a Senate candidate is $2,700 per election. Donors who give the maximum for a primary campaign can again donate the maximum for the general election.
The reception’s chairs included former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti and his wife Amy Elaine Wakeland, also a reception chair, wrote a note to potential donors asking they give to Feinstein so she could avoid a challenge from a fellow Democrat, which would drain resources from the attempt to oust seven California Republican House members as part of the Democrats’ efforts to regain control of the House.
The note also praised Feinstein as a “powerful ally since Eric became mayor” in 2013, “helping secure hundreds of millions in federal funds for our transportation infrastructure and to revitalize the LA River.”
The note called Feinstein “a tireless fighter to house the homeless, clean our air and water, protect our Dreamers and create a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S.”
The fundraiser prompted a rally by activists who want Feinstein to support single-payer health care, which organizer Lauren Steiner called “a litmus test for progressive Democrats.”
De Leon voted in favor of SB 562, the Healthy California Act, which would create a single-payer health care system in California.
The bill was approved by the Senate June 1. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, announced June 23 it would remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.
Silicon Valley billionaire Tom Steyer has indicated that he is also considering a challenge to Feinstein. No strong Republican contenders have emerged.
Under California’s “top-two primary” system the two candidates receiving the most votes in the June primary will advance to the November 2018 general election, regardless of party.
De Leon is fighting history in his challenge to Feinstein. No elected California senator has lost a bid for re-election since 1976 when Democrat John Tunney was denied a second term by Republican S.I. Hayakawa.
No sitting member of the Legislature has won a “top of the ticket” race in California (governor or senator) since Democrat Culbert Olson was elected governor in 1938.