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CA Dem Party Endorses de Leon          07/15 12:28

   OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The California Democratic Party snubbed U.S. Sen. 
Dianne Feinstein on Saturday by handing its official endorsement and a badly 
needed boost to state Sen. Kevin de Leon, her longshot Democratic challenger.

   In backing de Leon, a majority of the party's 360-member executive board 
ignored Feinstein's calls to stay neutral in the race. Her allies had warned an 
endorsement would create an intraparty squabble that could detract from 
important down-ballot races.

   De Leon has long been courting party activists and appealed to those seeking 
a fresh face and a more progressive senator to fight against President Donald 
Trump.

   "Today's vote is a clear-eyed rejection of politics as usual in Washington, 
D.C.," de Leon said in a statement after the vote. "We have presented 
Californians with the first real alternative to the worn-out Washington 
playbook in a quarter-century."

   A total of 217 delegates voted for de Leon, of Los Angeles, while 22 cast 
ballots for Feinstein and 94 voted for no endorsement.

   Party members and activists are typically more liberal than the wider 
California electorate that has sent Feinstein to Washington five times. 
Feinstein has turned skepticism from some party activists into an asset in her 
past campaigns.

   The endorsement of de Leon means the state party will spend money promoting 
his candidacy this fall.

   Still, Feinstein outpaces him in name recognition and cash and has a loyal 
following across California. She won the June 5 primary with 44 percent of the 
vote compared to de Leon's 12 percent.

   While it's an embarrassment for California's senior senator to lose her 
party's official nod, it may do little to change the trajectory of the race.

   "We are confident that a large majority of California Democrats will vote to 
reelect Sen. Feinstein in November," Jeff Millman, her campaign manager, said 
Saturday night.

   California runs a top-two primary system that sends the two highest primary 
vote-getters to the general election regardless of party. The system allowed de 
Leon to take the No. 2 spot by squeaking past a slew of unknown Republicans in 
the primary.

   Six U.S. House candidates for seats considered top Democratic targets joined 
Feinstein's call for neutrality in a letter to members before the vote on 
Saturday.

   "A divisive party endorsement for U.S. Senate would hurt all down-ballot 
candidates and our ability to turn out Democrats we desperately need to vote in 
November," it said.

   De Leon led the state Senate until earlier this year. He is the author of 
California's sanctuary state law that was the target of a Trump administration 
lawsuit. A judge dismissed the case.

   Feinstein was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, when she became the 
first woman to serve the state in that chamber. She is the ranking member of 
the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she'll take center stage this summer 
during the U.S. Supreme Court nomination fight.

   The California Democratic Party has snubbed U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein by 
giving its endorsement to her rival, state Sen. Kevin de Leon.

   He won the party nod Saturday after a vote of the party's roughly 360-member 
executive board made up of local officials and party activists.

   It's an embarrassment for Feinstein, who had urged members to stay neutral 
in the race. The endorsement means the party will spend money promoting de 
Leon's campaign, which has struggled to raise cash.

   Still, Feinstein holds the upper hand. She took 44 percent of the vote in 
the June 5 primary compared to de Leon's 12 percent in a field of more than 30 
candidates.

   Feinstein's allies had warned an endorsement in the race would create an 
intraparty squabble that could detract from important down-ballot races.

   California sends the two highest vote-getters to the general election 
regardless of party.


(KA)

 
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