Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — at 89 years old, the oldest member of Congress — has officially announced that she intends to retire at the end of her term, clearing the path for the California Democrats who have already declared their intention to run for her Senate seat in 2024.
“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024, but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends,” Feinstein said.
In making her anticipated announcement, Senator Feinstein vowed to serve out the rest of her term, meaning that the race to succeed her would not have any thumb on the scale in the form of the appointment of a temporary successor by California Governor Gavin Newsom, a move that would give the advantage of incumbency to whomever Newsom might pick.
There is no shortage of highly qualified Democrats seeking to replace Senator Feinstein, with two candidates having already announced their intention to run in the state’s Democratic primary before it was even certain that Feinstein would retire.
Progressive Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) — currently representing the 47th congressional district in Southern California’s Orange County — was the first to announce her candidacy last month, hoping to join her mentor and former law professor Senator Elizabeth Warren in the upper chamber of Congress.
Porter was quickly followed by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the former Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who represents the 30th congressional district which includes parts of the Los Angeles area, and who declared his candidacy three weeks ago.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) — another progressive who represents the state’s 12th congressional district, including Oakland in Northern California — is also expected to declare her candidacy for Feinstein’s seat shortly.
Rep. Lee reportedly leaked her plans to her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus last month and has been waiting for the incumbent Feinstein to announce her retirement before officially throwing her hat into the ring.
If Congresswoman Lee were to be successful, she would be the first Black woman in the Senate since Kamala Harris left the Senate for the Vice-Presidency.
Senator Feinstein’s announcement has long been expected given her advanced age — although she is only a few months older than Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who ran and was re-elected to his Senate seat last year — and the whispered issues about her memory and cognitive decline.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) paid tribute to the Senior member of his caucus in remarks to The New York Times.
“She’s a legend, a legend in California as the first woman senator…She spoke at our caucus, she gave heartwarming and a teary address,” he said, describing the Senate Democratic luncheon at which Feinstein reportedly received “a long standing ovation.”
Senate Democrats will surely miss Senator Feinstein’s sagacity and experience once she leaves, but with three outstanding candidates to replace her — and a solid Democratic majority in California — she is sure to be replaced with someone equally committed to her party’s principles.
Original reporting by Annie Karni at The New York Times.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.