by Leslie Layton
California Sen. Kevin de León, running an uphill battle to win a U.S. Senate seat, campaigned Thursday in Butte County, calling for debt-free higher education, immigration reform and Medicare-for-all.
De León also criticized his opponent, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for not acting sooner to stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh from becoming a U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee on the brink of confirmation. De León said Feinstein could have helped block the 2006 floor vote that confirmed Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
De León, who has served as president pro tempore of the California Senate, indicated he believes Democrats in Congress must use more combative tactics – not unlike strategies in use by Republicans – in the face of Republican Party extremism. He said his position isn’t partisan, but rather a reaction to a presidency that is an “abnormal electoral aberration.”
Dressed casually for the Chico heat in a work shirt and blue jeans, and speaking with passion, de León said the United States has spent $6 trillion on the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – money that could have been better used elsewhere.
“We have families today that will never see their children come back from Afghanistan and Iraq,” de León said to a group of about 20 people gathered at the university’s Trinity Commons. “Six trillion dollars that we should have spent on debt-free college education, Medicare-for-all, immigration reform, on investments in renewable energy. This is the vision I have for all of you.”
De León, a Los Angeles Democrat, has been endorsed by the state’s Democratic Party even though he placed second to Feinstein in the California primary. He represents the party’s increasingly vocal and growing progressive wing, but faces challenges in unseating Feinstein, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.
“I know I need young folks,” he said to students in the audience. “Without your vote I can’t cross that finish line. With you telling your roommates and your families back home… if you jump on your laptop and become keyboard warriors, I have no doubt that on Nov. 6 we can make history again and college students and millennials will have a voice they can count on in Washington D.C.”
De León explained that Kavanaugh’s appointment in 2006 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia positioned him to become a U.S. Supreme Court nominee – even though he’s “someone who wouldn’t support women’s right to choose, voting rights, civil rights.”
Democrats in the U.S. Senate had managed to stall the vote for three years. Although Feinstein was one of 36 senators voting against the confirmation – it passed with 57 votes – she declined to vote in 2006 to block the floor vote as some Democrats did, de León said.
De León also said Feinstein should have ensured the confidentiality requested by Christine Blasey Ford, the California woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault. De León said that only two parties had accessed Blasey Ford’s letter prior to the leak – Feinstein’s staff and the Washington Post. “It must have come from her office,” de León said of the leak.
Feinstein has denied allegations – mostly from conservative lawmakers — that she or her staff leaked the letter, and The Intercept, one of the first media outlets to access the letter, said it wasn’t leaked by Feinstein or her staff.
Viviana Razo, one of the Chico State students who attended, said she supports de León in part because his background as the child of immigrants is similar to hers. “It’s great to see somebody who supports my values,” Razo said.
De León will be termed out of the California State Senate after this year. Journalist Dan Walters notes that Feinstein’s support has been dropping while de León’s has been rising, suggesting the race may be more competitive than anticipated.
Lupita Arim-Law, vice chair of the Butte County Democratic Party, arranged for de León’s visit to the area.
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.