Elizabeth Warren Protege Katie Porter Waits Out Making A 2020 Endorsement

The California lawmaker counts both Warren and Kamala Harris, her home-state senator, as mentors.

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Katie Porter is in a bit of an awkward spot.

The California Democrat, a protege and former student of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has yet to make an endorsement in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary ― even as Warren has emerged as a leading candidate in the race, drawing ever-larger crowds on the campaign trail and beating out former Vice President Joe Biden in recent polls.

One reason for Porter’s reluctance could be that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is still very much in the race. Porter shares a history with Harris, too: As attorney general of California, Harris appointed Porter to be the state’s independent monitor of banks, and Porter has spoken of Harris as another mentor in her political rise.

Harris has more to gain from Porter’s endorsement, given her plunge in the polls over the last month, including surveys conducted of Democratic voters in California. In the latest University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Governmental Studies poll of the state, Warren led the field with 29% of likely Democratic primary voters. Harris trailed with just 8%.

Even as Porter has stayed neutral, other California Democrats have gotten off the sidelines and backed various candidates in the presidential primary.

“I adore Elizabeth and Kamala,” Porter told HuffPost recently. “I think either of them would be terrific presidents. I’m very enthusiastic and supportive of both of them, and that’s where it stands.”

Spokespersons for both the Warren and Harris campaigns did not respond to a request for comment.

Porter received endorsements from both senators in her long-shot 2018 bid for Congress in the heart of Orange County, California, which was once a conservative bastion before Donald Trump came along. 

In Congress, Porter teamed up with both senators to tackle issues touching on consumer protections and corporate malfeasance. A bicameral bill she co-sponsored with Warren and other senators sought to bolster the power of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, whose creation Warren spearheaded. Porter also introduced legislation with Harris that would strengthen the power of state attorneys general to monitor banks.

Other Democrats are likely weighing similar decisions as they watch the 2020 jockeying ahead of the pivotal Iowa caucuses. Rep. Mike Levin, another first-term California Democrat, told HuffPost he doesn’t anticipate endorsing until the California primary.

“You can count me in the ‘anybody but Trump’ column,” Levin said. 

Biden currently has the most support from prominent members of the party, according to The New York Times’ endorsement tracker, including many from states that are not his native Pennsylvania or Delaware. Harris, meanwhile, has the backing of four California representatives, including first-term Rep. Katie Hill. 

“There are many senators running for president and many members of Congress know them personally. There’s nothing easy about backing someone who’s not your hometown senator,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive consultant and onetime aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Porter, meanwhile, says she’s not focused on the ins and outs of the presidential race. But she would like her constituents to hear from as many candidates as possible ahead of California’s March primary, which will take place three months earlier than when the balloting occurred in 2016, in order to increase the state’s role in shaping the 2020 race.

“There are a lot of delegates to be had in California, and in particular my area of Orange County ― we just flipped it to the Democrats ― so there’s a lot of enthusiasm there, and I would love to have candidates to come and visit,” Porter said. “And I would welcome any of them to do that.”