After over a month of speculation and growing anticipation, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced on Tuesday that she will be running for the U.S. Senate next year.
Lee, who has been in the House of Representatives since 1998 representing the Oakland area, following several years in the state Assembly and Senate, has been under intense speculation to run since January following Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announcing that she would not be running for reelection in 2024. Last month, she reportedly told colleagues that she would be running for the Senate shortly after Congresswoman Katie Porter’s Senate run announcement. This was followed up by reports last week of Lee officially filing paperwork to run, with those close to Lee saying that she would officially announce by the end of the month.
On Tuesday, Lee officially announced, highlighting her long Congressional tenure, extensive history on fighting for civil rights, and the lack of women of color in the Senate in a series of ads, statements, and social media posts.
Today I am proud to announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate. I’ve never backed down from doing what’s right. And I never will. Californians deserve a strong, progressive leader who has delivered real change.#BarbaraLeeSpeaksForMe pic.twitter.com/sEjmABg2BS
— Barbara Lee (@BarbaraLeeForCA) February 21, 2023
“Today I am proud to announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate,” said Congresswoman Lee on Tuesday. “I’ve never backed down from doing what’s right. And I never will. Californians deserve a strong, progressive leader who has delivered real change.
“I’m running for US Senate because Californians deserve a strong, progressive leader who has accomplished real things and delivered real change. That’s what I’ve done my entire career in public service, and it’s what I’ll do in the Senate. Californians have my word that, whether it’s the climate crisis, solutions to homelessness, lifting people out of poverty, easing the burden on the middle class, protecting our Democracy, standing up for reproductive freedom, or ensuring our civil and human rights, I will never back down from fighting for what’s right.”
“When my high school said cheerleaders couldn’t be Black, I took them on. I worked with the NAACP and earned my spot as, guess what, the school’s first Black cheerleader. And 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. You bring a folding chair for everyone and they’re here to stay.”
“Californians deserve a strong, progressive leader who has delivered real change. For those who say my time has passed, well, when does making change go out of style?”
Lee also noted many prominent pieces of legislation she worked on during her Congressional tenure, such as the Violence Against Women Act and Hate Crimes Reduction Act. However, she also brought to light what many have seen as negative traits and actions of hers, such as running for Senate in her late 70s at a time where older age is being more scrutinized, as well as her controversial and divisive decision to be the lone holdout vote in 2001 against the Authorization for Use of Military Force 2001 (AUMF), only days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
“In the face of countless death threats, I was the only ‘no’ vote,” added Lee on Tuesday.
Lee to challenge Porter, Schiff for Senate seat next year
With Lee now joining Porter and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in the Senate race, she has ensured that the race will not be a direct battle between the latter two lawmakers as many had predicted. Instead, with Lee, as well as other prominent Californian lawmakers possibly running, offering challenges, it has ensured that the race will also bring a challenging primary election.
“Lee is pretty liberal, and she’s running against the also-liberal Porter and Schiff,” explained Bay Area pollster Jessica Yang to the Globe on Tuesday. “But she also brings a NorCal voice and an African-American and woman of color voice into the race, not to mention the most political experience. So she can really upend it all and be a serious contender.”
“But she is also coming in with a lot of baggage. She voted against AUMF right after 9/11, and that decision is still seen as crazy by most Americans. She has also had a radical past, with her first political experiences being tied to Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers and giving praise to dictators like Fidel Castro.”
“Her announcement and the ad today really is trying to paint the picture of her coming from a poorer background and doggedly moving up the political ladder, but it’s ignored a lot of the political help she received along the way. And, of course, her age. If Porter and Schiff are smart, they’ll leave the matter of age for others to talk about and not bring it up in debates, because as Lee showed in her ad, she is pretty prepared for that argument. Not so much on matters like working with radicals.”
“Overall, it was a solid entrance into the race for Lee, but she has so much baggage coming into this that it might be difficult for her to get past the primary.”
Other candidates are expected to announce official runs for the Senate next year soon.
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