LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein cruised to first place in California’s primary on Tuesday in her bid for a fifth full term in Washington.
In a video statement delivered from Washington, Feinstein pledged to “protect California” in “difficult and contentious times.”
Feinstein’s opponent hasn’t yet been determined, but fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon, a state senator, is hoping to secure the second spot. Little-known Republican James Bradley is also in the running for second place.
California sends the two highest vote-getters to the November general election regardless of party. Feinstein heads to November with more than $7 million in the bank.
A Feinstein-de Leon general election would be California’s second U.S. Senate contest featuring two Democrats. In 2016, then-state attorney general Kamala Harris defeated U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
Feinstein won her U.S. Senate seat in 1992 after serving as San Francisco’s mayor and running unsuccessfully for governor. At 84, she is the chamber’s oldest member. She’s also one of the most well-known politicians in California and has a sizeable war chest to communicate her message.
She’s highlighted her successful 1994 effort to ban assault weapons, which has since expired, and legislation to protect the environment as evidence that she understands Californians’ priorities. She pledged in her victory statement to fight for a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour, women’s reproductive rights and universal health care.
She’s staking her claim as a champion of core Democratic priorities as de Leon attempts to paint her as too deferential to President Donald Trump.
Early returns showed de Leon in a neck-and-neck battle for second place against Bradley. De Leon is considered Feinstein’s most credible challenger given his history leading the state Senate and authorizing the “sanctuary state” legislation, among pushing other Democratic priorities.
Bradley, meanwhile, has never held elected office and raised less than $5,000. He generated some interest among Republicans after a one-off poll showed him close behind de Leon, helping him win the endorsement of a conservative San Diego radio host leading the GOP effort to repeal the state’s gas tax increase.
Millions of ballots, including in California’s major cities, still hadn’t been counted.
Regardless of who she faces, Feinstein is the heavy favorite heading into November.
But activists denied her the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in February, highlighting frustrations among some of the most liberal members about Feinstein’s interactions with Trump and stance on issues such as immigration.
De Leon has sought to seize on that vulnerability by making the case that he better represents California’s values in the Trump era.
She’s touted her seniority in Washington as a benefit to California. She is the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and has considerable clout in the chamber.
But Sue Regan, a 66-year-old retired psychiatrist, said she voted for de Leon because Feinstein is “too old” and too conservative on certain issues. Feinstein would turn 90 in her next term if re-elected.
“Feinstein’s time is up,” said Regan, a registered Democrat from Sacramento. “I know that Kevin de Leon would not have the power that she has in the Senate, it would take him some time to develop that, but I think he’s very liberal, and I support the causes that he does.”
But Feinstein’s age didn’t stop 82-year-old Jay Smith, a registered Republican, from casting his vote for her.
“I went to Stanford and so did Dianne Feinstein,” he said. “I don’t care how old she is.”
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