Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein won’t run for reelection next year and will instead retire after three decades in the Senate and more than 50 years in elected office.
Feinstein, first elected in 1992, made the announcement Tuesday, ending months of speculation about her political future. She is 89 years old and would be 97 at the end of another six-year term if she were reelected.
Feinstein had previously said she would make a decision on a 2024 run in the spring, but numerous Democrats had already lined up to run for her seat, including Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.
As a representative of the state with the nation’s largest economy, and the center of the environmental movement, Feinstein has been at the forefront of many major environmental policy debates in her time in the Senate, including efforts to protect important areas in the state, mitigate wildfires and ease water shortages.
She has had disagreements with environmental activists who accused her of not sufficiently protecting their priorities. In 2019, she clashed with youth activists over the Green New Deal in a video interaction that later went viral (Climatewire, Feb. 25, 2019).
In the statement announcing her retirement, Feinstein touted her accomplishments.
“From the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban to the 2014 CIA torture report, from preserving Lake Tahoe and the Mojave Desert to passing the first significant global warming legislation, from protecting student athletes from abuse to protecting consumers from harmful chemicals, and more recently improving our efforts to combat wildfire and drought, we have improved the lives of millions,” she said.
“I campaigned in 2018 on several priorities for California and the nation: preventing and combating wildfires, mitigating the effects of record-setting drought, responding to the homelessness crisis, and ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care,” she continued. “Congress has enacted legislation on all of these topics over the past several years, but more needs to be done — and I will continue these efforts.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sang Feinstein’s praises after her announcement. He said Feinstein announced the decision at the Democratic Caucus lunch moments before releasing the statement.
“She’s a legend,” he told reporters. “She was the leader on so many different issues — assault weapons, environment, women’s rights and so much else. She approached everything studiously and carefully. But she had passion that accompanied her detailed knowledge of the facts. And she was able to convince people on both sides of the aisle to go along with her on issue after issue after issue.”
Sen. Alex Padilla (D), her fellow Californian in the upper chamber, also cheered her record.
“It would be impossible to write the history of California politics — it would be impossible to write the history of American politics — without acknowledging the trailblazing career of Sen. Dianne Feinstein,” he said, listing off her work, including “leadership of environmental protection, from the redwoods of California to Joshua Tree and so many communities in between.”
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has served alongside her as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter that he has “enjoyed working w my friend Dianne Feinstein for decades Her hard work & friendship will be missed in the US Senate upon her retirement at the end of her term.”
She is the second Senate Democrat to announce plans to retire and not run in 2024, after Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Porter and Schiff have both launched campaigns to run for Feinstein’s seat, in a race that is likely to focus heavily on climate change (Climatewire, Jan. 11). Rep. Barbara Lee (D) is likely to enter the race as well, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D) has expressed interest.
Other potential Democratic candidates include Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) has declined to run.
No major Republicans have entered the race.