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Rep. Katie Porter announces run for U.S. Senate in California

Porter will run in 2024 for the seat now held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat who has not said whether she will seek reelection.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), left, speaks during a House committee hearing on gun violence last June. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday she is running for U.S. Senate in 2024, amid uncertainty over whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will seek a sixth full term that year.

In an email to her supporters, as well as a video posted to her social media accounts, Porter touted her background as a minivan-driving single mom of three better known for her use of a whiteboard in the House than for being a “career politician.”

“I’m running for the U.S. Senate because Californians deserve a warrior fighting for them in Washington,” Porter, 49, wrote. “In the House, I’ve stood up to leaders of both parties — as both the only Democrat to oppose earmarks and as one of just a dozen Members of Congress to reject lobbyist and corporate PAC money.”

Feinstein, 89, last year filed initial paperwork to run for reelection in 2024 but has not explicitly said whether she will seek another term. California’s other senator, Democrat Alex Padilla, 49, won his first full term in November and won’t be up for election again until 2028.

“Everyone is of course welcome to throw their hat in the ring, and I will make an announcement concerning my plans for 2024 at the appropriate time,” Feinstein said in a statement Tuesday. “Right now I’m focused on ensuring California has all the resources it needs to cope with the devastating storms slamming the state and leaving more than a dozen dead.”

Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator, has for years waved off questions about her age and ability to serve but has also relinquished a number of key roles in recent years. She stepped down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee before the 117th Congress.

Last year, Feinstein declined consideration to become president pro tempore of the Senate, a position that traditionally goes to the most senior senator of the party in power and is third in line to the presidency. The role instead went to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Porter, who represents large swaths of Orange County, was first elected to Congress in 2018. After redistricting last year, Porter narrowly won reelection in November — now in California’s 47th Congressional District — by about three percentage points.

The race for Feinstein’s seat, regardless of whether Feinstein runs for reelection, is likely to be a competitive and expensive one. A number of California Democrats are said to be exploring Senate runs, including Reps. Ro Khanna and Adam B. Schiff, who has said he would seriously consider a bid if Feinstein were to retire.

Khanna said that he was focused on the severe storms and floods in California and that he would make a decision “in the next few months.”

A person familiar with Schiff’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, said Tuesday that Schiff would determine his own timeline. It’s not dictated by what Katie Porter does, nor would it ever be,” the person said, also citing the California storms. “I don’t think you announce your next political steps in the middle of a natural disaster where 15 people are already dead and more could come.”

Should Feinstein step down before the end of her term, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would appoint a Black woman to fill the role.

“We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes,” he said when asked if he would do so on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” in 2021. There have been no Black women in the Senate since Kamala D. Harris of California resigned her seat to serve as vice president. Newsom appointed Padilla to fill Harris’s seat, making him the first Latino senator to represent California.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who is considering a Senate bid, said in a statement to The Washington Post that “California deserves a senator with a record of accomplishment and a progressive vision.”

“While the United States Senate is sorely lacking the presence of people of color, Black women in particular, today I am focused on helping Californians stay safe in this extreme weather and fighting the House Republicans’ extreme agenda,” she added.

Khanna said he will take Lee’s decision into consideration in his decision, which he plans to make by the end of March.

“I do have a respect for her and the cause of seeing representation for an African American woman, and that is something I would factor in, candidly,” he told The Post.

“I’m in conversations with her, but in the next couple of months we’ll make a decision,” Khanna said, noting that he expects Feinstein will serve out the remainder of her term.

He said that many people who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary have reached out to him about a run and that he’s been fielding calls since Porter’s announcement and will give it serious consideration. Khanna served as national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, and Sanders won the California primary.

Porter’s background as a consumer finance expert and former bankruptcy law professor helped her gain national attention for her acute grilling of banking and pharmaceutical executives in congressional hearings, often while scribbling math equations on a whiteboard. She studied under Elizabeth Warren at Harvard Law School, and later became co-chair of Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign.

After then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin questioned whether Porter was a lawyer during a contentious hearing in 2020, Warren defended her protegee.

“I’ve known Rep. Katie Porter since she was a law student in my bankruptcy class 20 years ago,” Warren wrote then. “To answer your snotty question, Secretary Mnuchin: Not only is Rep. Porter a lawyer, she can run circles around you and any of your legally questionable and morally bankrupt policy failures.”

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a Warren-endorsed PAC, on Tuesday said it would endorse Porter for Senate, noting its members had donated more than $400,000 for Porter’s congressional campaigns.

“On a gut level, Katie knows how to challenge power on behalf of families,” PCCC co-founder Adam Green said in a statement. “We’ve been fighting alongside Katie from the very beginning as she’s taken on predatory banks, corporate executives, and big-money special interests. Now voters are ready to send her — and her whiteboard — to the U.S. Senate.”

Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco, has been a trailblazer, elected to the Senate in 1992 amid the outrage among women over the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill, who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when he was a nominee for Supreme Court justice. Thomas denied the charges.