Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke out on Thursday about the Democratic 2024 California senate primary that’s starting to take shape.
Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff have already launched campaigns for the Senate seat, which is currently held by Sen. Diane Feinstein. Reports have circulated that Rep. Barbara Lee is also preparing to launch a run for the senate seat and in December, Rep. Ro Khanna told Semafor he would “take a look at running” if Feinstein were to retire.
Against the backdrop of this burgeoning Democratic senate primary field, Pelosi placed her support behind Feinstein first, but said she would support Schiff if Feinstein chose not to run for another term.
“If Senator Feinstein decides to seek re-election, she has my whole-hearted support,” Pelosi said in an emailed statement shared with the press. “If she decides not to run, I will be supporting House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who knows well the nexus between a strong Democracy and a strong economy.”
Schiff was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until last month, when the Republican party began the new session of Congress with a majority in the House. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally blocked Schiff from returning to the House Intelligence Committee last week and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has since nominated other members of the Democratic party to serve on the committee.
Schiff welcomed Pelosi’s provisional endorsement of his Senate campaign, tweeting:
I’m deeply honored and proud to have the support of @SpeakerPelosi, who has been a friend and mentor throughout my time in Congress.
She’s accomplished so much for children and for working families, and deeply understands the challenges to our democracy that lie ahead.
— Adam Schiff (@AdamSchiff) February 2, 2023
Feinstein Still Undecided
It remains to be seen if Feinstein will run again in 2024 or give up her Senate seat after having been in office for 30 years.
According to Federal Election Committee (FEC) disclosures, Feinstein’s 2024 Senate Campaign started in 2021 with about $48,018 and has brought in $8,634 between the start of 2021 and end of 2022. The campaign has spent about $46,862 in the past two years and had about $9,968 on hand at the end of 2022.
By comparison, Schiff’s Senate campaign has about $20.8 million in cash on hand. Porter has about $7.4 million in cash on hand.
In her statement on Thursday, Pelosi praised Feinstein for her past work in the Senate, including the passage of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Respect for Marriage Act.
“Since her election to the Senate in 1992, Senator Feinstein has achieved a remarkable legislative record, always delivering for California and forcefully honoring her oath to protect and defend,” Pelosi said.
While 82-year-old Pelosi is placing her support first and foremost behind the 89-year-old Feinstein, some left-leaning political commentators have raised concerns about her cognitive state in her advanced age.
“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to retire,” UC Irvine law professor and CNN contributor Rick Hasen wrote in December. “She did some great work in [the] Senate. But it’s been clear for [the] last few years that her cognitive decline is serious. Let Gov. [Gavin] Newsom appoint someone who can fully represent CA’s interests until election.”
The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle raised allegations that Feinstein is experiencing cognitive decline and said fellow Democrats should urge her resignation if those claims prove accurate.
Democrat Party Leaders Share Dueling Endorsements
If Feinstein does not decide to run, Pelosi’s endorsement could be one of the most influential for Schiff’s senate campaign.
While Schiff has the provisional support of the two-time speaker of the House, Porter has also gained some high-profile support of her own.
Within days of announcing her senate bid, Porter received an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Warren is in her second senate term and gained added prominence in the Democratic party when she ran in the party’s 2020 presidential primaries.
“Katie delivers for California,” Warren said in her endorsement video. “She’s smart and she has a backbone made of steel.”