Voters don't head to the polls in California for more than a year, but the race to represent the Golden State in the U.S. Senate is heating up.
California Rep. Barbara Lee told colleagues at a closed-door Congressional Black Caucus luncheon Wednesday that she is planning to run for U.S. Senate in 2024, a source told Spectrum News.
News of Lee's plans was first reported by POLITICO and confirmed to Spectrum News.
A source close to Lee told Spectrum News that the Oakland congresswoman is “planning” to run, but that Wednesday's news did not mark an official campaign announcement. The same source said that Lee “spoke to Sen. Dianne Feinstein" – the 89-year-old California lawmaker who has held the seat since 1992 – about her plans to launch a Senate bid.
The news comes one day after California Rep. Katie Porter announced that she was launching her own bid for the U.S. Senate seat in 2024.
In a statement to Spectrum News following Porter’s announcement, Feinstein said: “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.”
Porter and Lee are not the only ones interested in representing California in the upper chamber: Sources told Spectrum News in November that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has also been exploring a bid.
A source close to Schiff told Spectrum News on Tuesday that he has no plans to announce a Senate run in the midst of a natural disaster, referencing the wicked weather impacting the state.
Feinstein, is currently the oldest sitting U.S. Senator and oldest current member of Congress. Feinstein has not publicly announced her plans for 2024, though it is expected she will not run for re-election.
A poll conducted by David Binder Research shared by Porter's campaign found her leading Schiff 30-29 in a survey of likely non-Republican voters in the 2024 primary, followed by 9% for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and 6% for Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., two other potential challengers. Sixteen percent of respondents said they were undecided, while 9% would vote for a GOP candidate and 1% would not vote in the contest at all.
In an interview with Spectrum News on Tuesday, Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College, said that while it was "definitely an early time" for Porter to announce her candidacy, the timing could be to her benefit in what she believes "is no doubt going to be a tight race."
Sadhwani called it "an interesting play" that Porter announced her candidacy before Feinstein made a decision about her future.
"It's really almost pushing Feinstein to step down," she said, noting that former California Sen. Barbara Boxer played an "important role" in helping to support her successor in the seat, Kamala Harris.
"It'll be interesting to see if Feinstein actually does step down, although most people do believe she probably will ... and if Feinstein will offer a an endorsement for any candidate in particular for 2024," Sadhwani added.
California utilizes a top two primary system, so the two leading candidates in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the November general election.
"That could mean that it's two Democrats vying for a Senate seat, whether that be Sen. Feinstein and a challenger, or two new people if Feinstein chooses to stand down in 2024," Sadhwani said. "That means that there will need to be a whole lot of fundraising amongst candidates, and ... California is a very diverse state, things like geography of where you are from and where your base of support comes from, the amount of money you can fundraise, even demographics."
This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.