De Leon vs. Feinstein Should Be About the Issues

De Leon vs. Feinstein Should Be About the Issues

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The question isn’t that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been in office too long (a quarter of a century in her current post); is too old (she’s 84); or too ineffective (she’s been a leading expert on water policy, and sits on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees), or too unpopular (recent polls show her with a majority of approval from California voters).

The question is: Should Democrats not challenge Feinstein?

The answer: Voters are the only ones qualified to determine if an elected official deserves to be elected or re-elected to a public office.

There was some negative reaction when state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Democrat from Los Ángeles, would challenge Feinstein in the 2018 election. After all, critics said, Feinstein has faithfully protected California’s interests while working in a non-partisan fashion during her time in Washington, D.C.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll released last month showed 54 percent of likely voters approve the job the former San Francisco mayor is doing. However, 50 percent of those likely voters said Feinstein should not seek another term (43 percent said yes).

Feinstein had not announced her re-election bid at the time the poll was taken.

Politics is strange. Most local and state posts have term limits, as does the U.S. presidency. But, the U.S. Senate and the House do not. That’s the way the system is set up, which can sometimes be detrimental to younger politicians who have gotten into office because the politicos of the past who held onto their offices for eons were suddenly banished by term limits.

This is where de León, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, finds himself. After serving in the state Legislature since 2006, the Capitol is ready to kick him out the door. Being the first Latino to serve as the state Senate’s top leader means nothing.

When Feinstein campaign strategist Bill Carrick knocks de León’s as “a term-limited politician looking for a gig,” he forgets that Feinstein has been in her current gig more than twice as long as de León.

The media will obviously bring up Feinstein’s age, which is wrong. De León, to his credit, refuses to bite at those questions.

“This is about where she stands on key issues that the voters care about,” de León told a Los Ángeles Times columnist. “It’s a good thing for democracy that voters in California have a debate on contrasting ideas and values.”

California has changed considerably since 1992 when Feinstein was first elected to the Senate. Not only has there been a tsunami of demographic changes, but the nation has also undergone changes.

Can a veteran Senator change with the times? Or, is a Generation X politician better able to meet the needs of a California that has launched a resistance to President Donald J. Trump’s policies?

Will Democrats who have kept voting for Feinstein abandon her? Or, will they believe that a more confrontational approach will better serve the state?

There are many questions that will come up in this campaign, and we hope none of them hinge on age, experience or popularity.

This should not be treated as a coronation.