Sen. Dianne Feinstein announces retirement, says staffers jumped the gun

Sen. Dianne Feinstein announces retirement, says staffers jumped the gun

Posted For: Landru


Longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday she won’t be seeking re-election in 2024 – only to tell reporters moments later her staff put out the statement ahead of schedule.

Just before 2 p.m., the 89-year-old’s official Twitter account revealed: “I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends. Even with a divided Congress, we can still pass bills that will improve lives.”

When asked about an hour later why she had opted not to seek another term, Feinstein — the oldest serving member of Congress — told reporters: “Well, I haven’t made that decision. I haven’t released anything.”

At that point, according to audio posted on Twitter by National Journal correspondent Savannah Behrmann, a male staffer told Feinstein the announcement was already out.

“You put out the statement?” asked an incredulous-sounding Feinstein, before telling the press: “I didn’t know they put it out.”

“It is what it is,” the senator added resignedly. “I think the time has come. I have a whole other year. I have things that are underway. I expect to achieve them, I hope, and so we’ll see.”

Feinstein’s announcement was widely expected following a string of reports in recent years concerning her declining cognitive health, though she told reporters Tuesday that the death last year of her husband Richard Blum had also “affected the decision.”

Unnamed Senate colleagues and former staffers had claimed in April of last year that Feinstein’s memory was rapidly deteriorating and that her staff did much of her work.

“I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea,” a member of California’s congressional delegation told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. “All of that is gone.”

Feinstein’s decision not to seek re-election was announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) during a closed-door lunch of Democratic senators at the Capitol.

“Senator Feinstein made history,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) following the lunch. “Every other woman in public office owes a special debt to Dianne Feinstein.”

Feinstein was the first female mayor of San Francisco and the first woman elected to the US Senate from California.

She was also the first woman to head the Senate Intelligence Committee and the first female to serve as the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat.

Anticipating Feinstein’s departure, a string of candidates had already begun assembling for what is predicted to be a tough primary campaign to replace her.

Democratic US Rep. Adam Schiff, who has been campaigning around the state, last month launched his Senate bid to replace Feinstein.

Rep. Katie Porter, a prominent member of the Democrat’s progressive wing, also announced her bid in January, while Rep. Barbara Lee is also expected to enter the race in the coming days.

Feinstein did not say Tuesday whether she would endorse any contender for the seat.

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