Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) announced her candidacy for Senate in California, becoming the third member of Congress running for the seat being vacated at the end of next year by retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“For those who say my time has passed, well, when does making change go out of style? I don’t quit. I don’t give up. Come on. That’s not in my DNA,” Lee, 76, said in a video released by her campaign on Tuesday. “Because when you stand on the side of justice, you don’t quit. If they don’t give you a seat at the table, you bring a folding chair for everyone.”
Lee also nodded to the fact that she would be the only Black woman in the Senate if elected to the job. The most recent senator to hold that distinction was now-Vice President Kamala Harris, who also represented California in the upper chamber.
“Even though there are no African American women in the United States Senate, we won’t let that stop us either — because when you stand on the side of justice, you don’t quit if they don’t give you a seat at the table,” Lee said in the video.
Lee joins a quickly growing field of candidates vying to replace the 89-year-old Feinstein, who recently said she would be stepping down after a long and storied career in public office. California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, 49, and Adam Schiff, 62, jumped into the race prior to Feinstein’s announcement. They’re both known as prodigious fundraisers.
Lee, a progressive House Democrat from Oakland, was first elected to Congress in 1998. She gained national attention in 2001 for being the only member of Congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan, cementing her legacy as an anti-war icon. A survivor of domestic violence who once traveled to Mexico to have an abortion as a teen, Lee has been outspoken on women’s rights issues in Congress. She’s also the highest-ranking Black woman appointed to House Democratic leadership.
During an interview published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Lee dismissed the notion that her age could become an obstacle in the race. She pointed to her life experience as something that would distinguish her from her younger progressive rivals.
“Bernie Sanders is older (81) than myself, and he won California,” Lee told the newspaper about the Vermont senator’s 2020 presidential primary win. “It’s about speaking to the voters. If Bernie Sanders can win a primary in California, then Barbara Lee certainly can win to be the next United States senator. Come on.”
California has a “top-two” primary system, meaning that the top-two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.
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