Khanna opts against Senate run, endorses Barbara Lee

The Bay Area Democrat was considered to be a potential rival among the Progressive wing of the heavily Democratic field if he opted to run.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Bay Area Democrat, announced on Sunday that he is endorsing fellow Representative Barbara Lee (D–Oakland) and will co-chair her campaign in the competitive race to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Khanna was considering running for the U.S. Senate seat that Feinstein will vacate at the end of her term, but ultimately decided that the House of Representatives was the best place for him to serve as a progressive.


The backstory: Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in Senate history, announced her plans to forgo a 2024 bid last month. The 89-year-old’s retirement was widely expected, so much so that Porter and Schiff both launched their campaigns before she officially bowed out (though Schiff said his run was predicated on Feinstein’s retirement.)

  • California’s primary system allows the top two vote-getters to advance to the general election regardless of party, a system that’s likely to pit two Democrats against each other in November 2024 in a solidly blue state.
  • The race for the Senate seat in California is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, with several high-profile Democrats vying for the nomination. Khanna’s endorsement of Lee is likely to boost her candidacy and help her gain support from progressive voters, who will play a key role in the primary.

The state of play: Lee is facing off against fellow Representatives Katie Porter (D–Irvine) and Adam Schiff (D–Pasadena), who have each already picked up key endorsements.

  • Khanna praised Porter and Schiff but said that Lee was a unique voice in the Senate and noted that there are currently no African American women in the Senate, and Lee would fill that void. “Frankly, Jake, representation matters,” Khanna told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
  • Khanna said that Lee would be a strong anti-war senator, noting that she was the lone vote against the endless war in Afghanistan and stood up against the war in Iraq. He also worked with her in trying to stop the war in Yemen and its respective war powers resolution.
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