Sept. 10, 2018 — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) was first elected a California senator back in 1992 when she won a special election to fill Pete Wilson’s unexpired term. Wilson left the Senate when he was elected governor in 1990, ironically, defeating Feinstein to win the post. He then appointed state Sen. John Seymour as his replacement, who then lost the special election challenge to Feinstein. She won a close re-election in 1994, and then won easily in 2000, 2006, and 2012. Despite being 85 years of age, the senator currently is running for a fifth full, six-year term.
However, this 2018 campaign is a much different one for the veteran senator. Pitted against another Democrat in the general election thanks to California’s top two (regardless of political party affiliation) primary nomination system, this contest appears to be the most difficult one she has faced since losing to Wilson in the governor’s campaign, and then barely winning Senate re-election four years later against then-Congressman Michael Huffington (R).
While the senator has led in every poll and finished first in the jungle primary, she has yet to top 50 percent. The new survey released late last week from Probolsky Research (Aug. 29-Sept. 2; 900 registered California voters), actually places her not only below 50 percent, but well under 40 percent. According to the Probolsky, Sen. Feinstein leads state senator and former state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) by only a 37-29 percent margin.
The breakdown here is interesting and provides de Leon some opening assuming he can raise the funds necessary to become more viable. Through the June 30 financial disclosure filing, de Leon had slightly under $426,000 in his campaign account, far below Sen. Feinstein’s $3.7 million war chest after she spent over $17.2 million in the primary.
The Problosky poll dissects the respondent sample and provides us with some interesting conclusions. Looking at a general election between two Democrats, it may well be the Republicans who provide the deciding margin if the race becomes a close contest. Because Sen. Feinstein is the less liberal of the two, one would guess that she would be able to attract more Republican voters, but such is not apparently the case.
The Problosky poll is the second consecutive research study that draws the opposite conclusion. According to this research, de Leon tops the senator among registered Republicans, 31-26 percent.
It is worth noting that most Republicans will likely skip this race. In 2016, when then-Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) defeated then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), the total turnout for the Senate race was actually lower than that of the most minor statewide ballot initiative, a measure that would limit plastic bags to a single usage. Some 1.325 million more people voted in the plastic bag initiative election than for US senator.
Mr. de Leon also does well with new registrants and those who are termed as “newer perfect voters”, meaning the individuals who more recently registered but have not missed an election since becoming a voter.
Whether or not Kevin de Leon can construct a winning coalition against a political icon in his state when now leading only among new registrants and members of the opposite party remains to be seen, but it is clear Sen. Feinstein is revealing political weakness for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.