Dianne Feinstein has been representing California’s interests in the U.S. Senate since 1992. Her seniority gives her ranking status on key committees, and affords her a long-term view of issues. When coupled with her demonstrated willingness to work for bipartisan solutions, Feinstein is a powerful force who is badly needed in the partisan rancor of Washington, D.C.
This November Feinstein is seeking her fifth six-year term, and The Bee recommends central San Joaquin Valley voters choose Feinstein over fellow Democrat Kevin de León, a California state senator from Los Angeles.
Feinstein’s political career has been noteworthy for firsts: first woman mayor of San Francisco; first woman president of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors; first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from California; first woman member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the first woman to be ranking member on that panel; and first woman to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Now 85, she is the oldest member of the Senate. But she shows the fire to fight for her principles. As an example, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. Feinstein received a confidential letter written by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor from Palo Alto who said Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Only after Ford agreed to share the letter publicly did Feinstein release it; that came during the confirmation process, and set off fierce Republican accusations that Feinstein was playing politics to doom Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Feinstein strongly denied that, and forcefully questioned Kavanaugh before voting against his nomination on grounds he had not been forthcoming in his answers and had not shown the proper temperament necessary to be a justice. In her meeting with The Bee’s Editorial Board, Feinstein said she received 300,000 letters and emails of support following the Kavanaugh hearings and President Donald Trump’s mocking of Feinstein.
Closer to home, Feinstein was much more moderate on the issue of the Valley’s water supply than the other Democrat from California she served with the longest, the now retired Barbara Boxer.
Two years ago Feinstein worked with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, to pass the WIIN Act — Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation. Included in it was $558 million to steer more water to farmers, ease dam construction and fund desalination and recycling projects. The bill also directed pumping more water to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Boxer loudly protested it when it came to the Senate floor, saying it would hurt fisheries.
“This water is for the thousands of farms that have gone bankrupt, like the melon farmer who sat in my office with tears in his eyes,” Feinstein said after the bill’s passage.
Feinstein told the Editorial Board that, thanks to the WIIN Act, California water agencies received 125,000 acre-feet this fall that would have otherwise flowed to the ocean.
Earlier this month the Senate passed another water bill, and it included a provision written by Feinstein to offer low-cost Treasury loans to water agencies for storage, recycling, groundwater recharge and other supply projects. She estimated the cost savings up to 25 percent.
On the issue of health, Feinstein has steadfastly voted to oppose efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Valley is one of the nation’s poorest regions, and hundreds of thousands of low-income people rely on Medi-Cal for health care. Her goal is to revise the act, not dismantle it.
On immigration, Feinstein is in the process of writing a bill that will include a provision to legalize the so-called Dreamers — children brought into the United States by undocumented parents. She also plans a provision to outlaw separating parents and children who come across the border. Last year she introduced a bill that would have provided immigrant farm workers with protection from deportation, as well as a means for legal status and, ultimately, citizenship. One of the key concerns of Valley farmers is having a stable work force.
To get an immigration bill passed, Feinstein is working with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. In his meeting with The Bee’s Editorial Board, de León called that a mistake, and added he would not favor a two-tier system for farm and domestic workers. He believes the only solution is legalization of such workers. The former pro tem of the state Senate, de León also led the push to declare California a sanctuary state.
De León is outspoken in his opposition to Trump and his policies. During the primary, he said that if elected, he would not work with the president. While he and Feinstein share similar views on immigration, environmental protection and gun control, de León is more combative in style, and criticizes Feinstein for not pushing hard enough against the GOP agenda.
That approach might work if your party is in the majority. But recent polls indicate that Republicans will likely retain control of the Senate after Nov. 6.
De León is smart, ambitious and has taken time to visit Valley communities during the campaign. He also preaches a valuable principle: That decisions have to go beyond equity to actually making communities equitable. The Valley could particularly benefit from such an approach.
However, Feinstein understands that Republicans have the lock on power in Washington. “It’s a special time right now. It makes life very difficult (as a Democrat). So you have to figure out how to get something passed. I have made friends and can get things done.”
She has, and she will. Valley voters would do well to return Dianne Feinstein to the U.S. Senate.
How The Bee came to this recommendation
The Bee’s Editorial Board consists of Publisher Ken Riddick, Editor Joe Kieta, Editorial Page Editor Tad Weber, Vida en el Valle Editor Juan Esparza Loera, and Vida Staff Writer Maria Ortiz-Briones. They conducted in-depth, in-person interviews with Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León. Additional research about the candidates was also done using publicly accessible online sources and The Bee’s archives.
The recommendation is just that: a helpful opinion meant to guide readers as they reach their own decision on which candidate to choose. This recommendation is the consensus opinion the Editorial Board; the news staff does not play any role in its creation.