Katie Porter’s announcement in Senate ends shadow campaign

By submitting her candidacy for the US Senate — openly, openly, plainly visible to the entire world — Rep. Katie Porter has put the contest where it belongs: right in front of California voters.

Vultures are circling Sen’s would-be successor Dianne Feinstein has spent years eyeing her seat, confident she will bow to time and reason and opt against a sixth full term in November 2024. An announcement about the future of the 89-year-old Democrat is expected in the spring.

Meanwhile, a fair number of prospects were busy hiring staff, working the phones, fondling donors, collecting IOUs, exchanging political gossip, and generally doing everything but elbowing the old incumbent in the ribs drive to hasten a public statement of her intention.

Why the quaint, Victorian notion that these Senate hopefuls should not be seen or heard out of respect for Feinstein and her plans? The campaign to replace her is well underway, and has been for quite some time. Why not let the voters participate in the action?

Whatever you think of Porter’s candidacy or credentials — and there will be plenty of time to consider either — give the Orange County congresswoman credit for stopping the charade.

“You have tremendous respect for Sen. Feinstein and respect that she wants to take her time” to decide the future,” Porter said in a phone interview after formally announcing her Senate bid Tuesday.

The Democrat took great pride in praising the path the former San Francisco mayor has paved for women in politics. But regardless, Porter said, “if the senator decides to run for another term…I’ll still be in that race.”

Porter had good reason to make her initial announcement.

She survived a brutal campaign to win re-election in November, spent much of the $25 million she raised and would undoubtedly have preferred to run for the Senate.

One of Porter’s alleged rivals, Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, is sitting on a $20 million cash pile, spurring her on to enter the contest sooner rather than later.

An early start also has a tactical advantage, as Democratic strategist Rose Kapolczynski told The Times’ Seema Mehta and Nolan D. McCaskill. Kapolczynski led Barbara Boxer’s successful Senate campaign in 1992, which Boxer began as a long shot even before fellow Democrat Alan Cranston officially announced his retirement.

“That gave her a head start to organize and talk to people and be part of any story about who might run for the Senate,” Kapolczynski said.

Porter’s announcement amid the storms battering California wasn’t the wisest political move.

Feinstein responded with a statement reaffirming her intention to disclose her plans in a timely manner and explaining — you could almost see the raised eyebrow — that she was instead focusing on the relentless rains and flooding.

Schiff tweeted a picture of himself, with the Capitol dome providing a perfectly framed backdrop, and explained he’s called “local, state and federal ’emergency management officials’ about responding to the devastating storms hitting our state and how the Congress can help”.

Another potential Porter opponent, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, said he too is busy responding to “historic weather conditions” rather than focusing on the Senate contest. “In the next few months,” he said on Twitter, “I will make a decision.”

All well and good.

For the record:

16:00 Jan 10, 2023A previous version of this column referred to the March 2024 primary. The 2024 primary is in June.

If voters don’t care about the timing of Porter’s announcement, perhaps because they see it as disrespectful to Feinstein or insensitive to those exposed to nature’s wrath, they can vote for someone else when the June 2024 primary rolls around.

There will most likely be no shortage of candidates to choose from.

And now that Porter has ended the shadow campaign, there’s no reason for California’s parade of would-be senators to continue playing coy.

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