Feinstein announces retirement at end of term

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday announced that she will not seek a sixth term in office and will retire from the Senate at the end of 2024, officially creating an open primary battle to replace the trailblazing senator.

Feinstein, 89, is the oldest sitting senator and has long been expected to depart at the end of her current term, having rolled back her workload and responsibilities in recent years.

She stepped aside as the leading Democrat atop the Senate Judiciary Committee in late 2020, a move that followed intense criticism over her handling of the confirmations of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Feinstein also declined to take on the position of Senate president pro tempore, usually reserved for the most senior member of the party in power — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the second-longest tenured Senate Democrat, filled that role after former Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) retired last year.

In addition, Feinstein did not show any indication that a reelection bid was in the offing based on her fundraising in recent months. According to her most recent FEC filing, the California Democrat raised $600 in the final three months of 2022 and has only 10,000 in the bank.

She said late last year that no matter her future plans, she would not resign before the end of her term. If she has a change of heart and decides to do so, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said that he will appoint a Black woman to fill the seat.

Feinstein has been subject to critical reports in recent years over her mental acuity, but defended herself against those claims, citing the death of her husband, Richard Blum, last year as a chief distraction.

However, the five-term senator is a groundbreaking woman in American political history. She, along with former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was the first woman elected to the Senate from the Golden State. She is also the longest-serving woman in the history of the Senate, having served atop two committees — Intelligence and Rules — and authored the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.

Feinstein also holds the distinction of having won the most votes in any single Senate election in history, having raked in 7.8 million votes in 2012.

Prior to her Senate service, she was mayor of San Francisco for a decade.

A lack of earlier announcements about her future, however, did not stop candidates from launching their own Senate bids in California. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced her official bid in early January, while Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), fresh off being removed from the House Intelligence Committee, joined the race weeks later. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) threw her support behind Schiff, assuming Feinstein sidestepped a campaign of her own.

The state’s jungle primary, likely to be held in summer of 2024, also means that two Democrats may make it to the general election that November. That was the case when Vice President Harris won her seat in 2016 and Feinstein won reelection in 2018.

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