Politics

A Graceful Exit for California Fixture Dianne Feinstein?

LOS ANGELES—After a record 20 years as a U.S. senator from California, the seemingly unbeatable Dianne Feinstein may announce she is not seeking reelection next March—on the eve of the filing deadline for the Golden State’s primaries and three months before the venerable Democrat turns 79.
 
That’s what State Republican Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told HUMAN EVENTS last night at the California GOP’s fall convention here.  Although Del Beccaro made it clear he had no inside information about Feinstein’s plans, the party chieftain said, “I won’t be the least bit surprised if she calls it quits.”
 
He recalled Feinstein’s first race for mayor of San Francisco, when she placed third behind then-Mayor Joseph Alioto and Republican Harold Dobbs.
 
“That was 40 years ago—back in 1971,” said Del Beccaro.  “She’s been around a while.”
 
Should Feinstein step down, Del Beccaro believes, she will choose a date in March for the announcement, and to give a favored candidate a leg up in succeeding her.  Because filing for the June primary closes in March, he told us, a candidate with Feinstein’s blessing would be formidable in a shortened nomination battle.
 
As to who Feinstein would favor as a successor in the Senate, no one knows for sure.  The seasoned senator is close to fellow San Francisco resident and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who, like Feinstein, served as mayor of the city.
 
“[Newsom] governed at City Hall essentially as Feinstein did in the 1980s and ’90s—as a centrist Democrat, or perhaps I should say ‘a centrist Democrat for San Francisco,’ ” noted Jon Fleischman, whose FlashReport is a must-read for all who follow politics in the Golden State.
 
Another Democrat considered close to Feinstein is former Southern California Rep. Jane Harman, who resigned from Congress earlier this year to take over the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.  Harman, widow of hi-fi tycoon Sid Harman, could use her vast personal wealth in a statewide race.
 
Republicans privately concede they are now hard-pressed to find a heavyweight contender to oppose Feinstein if she runs again.  But in the event her seat is open, the names of possible candidates abound: former State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who lost the GOP primary for governor last year, and venture capitalist William Simon Jr., who narrowly lost the ’02 race to then-Gov. Gray Davis, were spoken highly of by conventioneers at the JW Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles.
 
GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steel mentioned as a possible Senate hopeful Superior Court Judge and former Rep. (1996-2000) Jim Rogan.  Best known as one of the Clinton impeachment managers in 1999, Rogan would almost surely electrify the party’s conservative base if he reentered politics, Steel told us.
 
In a state that last elected a Republican senator in 1988, there is not a lot of enthusiasm for fielding a candidate against Dianne Feinstein.  But should she decide she’s had enough, it seems a good bet to say there will be no shortage of Republicans who will jump into the race for an open seat.


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