Speculation grows about eventual retirement for Sen. Feinstein and which California Democrat will succeed her

There have been persistent rumors that 89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, may soon decide to not run for re-election again in 2024  and will announce her plans to retire at the end of her current term, if not sooner.

Though the elderly California senator has yet to make that decision, multiple reports indicate that numerous California Democrats are already making moves to position themselves to be chosen as Feinstein’s successor in the next election cycle, Breitbart reported.

In fact, there are so many California Democrats at the federal, state, and local levels who are likely to make a bid for the presumptively open Senate seat that one Democratic strategist in the state said the 2024 election cycle would be a “real free-for-all.”

Will Feinstein stay or will she go?

It was just about two weeks ago that Breitbart reported separately how Sen. Feinstein said in an interview that she intended to fill out the remainder of her term and had no plans to step aside before that term is completed.

The senator did acknowledge that “There’s still two years, you know. A lot can happen in two years,” and suggested that she would finally decide what to do about 2024 “probably by spring.”

Those remarks came amid increasing chatter about Feinstein’s advanced age and allegedly worsening cognitive decline that has staffers reportedly covering for the fact that she is no longer able to adequately perform the job that she has been elected to do.

Potentially large field of would-be successors

In November, the Los Angeles Times reported on the in-state maneuvering of some California Democrats to try and best position themselves to succeed Sen. Feinstein.

“If Dianne chooses not to run again, there’s going to be a scrum, there’ll be a real free-for-all,” Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist in the state, told the Times. “There are a lot of very ambitious players in California who would give anything to have one of those two seats. So, yeah, there would be a lot of contenders.”

Of the Golden State’s federal delegation, both Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA) have signaled their interest in succeeding Feinstein and have displayed the ability to raise the substantial sums of money necessary for that achievement.

Close behind them, however, are around a half-dozen state-level officials who have proven they can win a statewide race, as well as more than a half-dozen other elected officials in the state’s big cities who would potentially have large constituent bases from which to launch a Senate campaign.

Then, of course, there is Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who has vowed to appoint a black woman to replace Feinstein if her seat becomes vacant before her term expires but has not ruled out the possibility of mounting his own senatorial run if the seat becomes open through the normal processes of retirement.

Likely contenders already making moves

More recently, Politico reported this month that the most likely contenders in the “shadow race” to try and succeed Sen. Feinstein included not just Reps. Schiff and Porter but also Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), who represent the Silicon Valley and Oakland areas, respectively.

The outlet noted that the next few months will be rather busy for these and other likely contenders, as all will be making moves both publicly and behind the scenes to try and secure for themselves — while denying to their competitors — commitments for future endorsements and campaign contributions.

Sragow, the Democratic strategist cited by the Times, also told Politico of the developing Feinstein succession race, “Anyone who is sophisticated enough to think about running for one of California’s two seats in the U.S. Senate is fully aware of the dynamics, and dynamics include the option of getting out early, staking your claim, and discouraging challengers.”

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