De Leon To Hold Kickoff for U.S. Senate Campaign

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 25: California State Senator Kevin de Leon delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon will hold the kickoff event for his campaign for the U.S. Senate today at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in downtown Los Angeles.

De Leon said he would ``share our vision for California and the country'' at what his campaign is billing a community event that ``will embody the rich diversity that California has been built on.''

De Leon tweeted on Sunday, ``I'm running for the U.S. Senate because you deserve a seat at table.'' De Leon's campaign is billing him as ``a progressive voice for California.''

In announcing his plans to challenge his fellow Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, de Leon, said his legislative record ``infused progressive California values in important policy efforts like immigration, women's rights, quality education, civil rights, job creation and fighting climate change.

``I was raised by a single mother with a third-grade education,'' De Leon said in an email. ``She worked her hands to the bone cleaning houses to provide for me and I have never forgiven those humble roots.''

De Leon, D-Los Angeles, said he will stand against President Donald Trump's administration, which he says ``disregards our voices, demonizes our diversity'' and ``attacks our civil rights, our clean air, our health access and our public safety.''

According to his state Senate biography, De Leon, 50, was raised in the San Diego barrio of Logan Heights. He graduated from Pitzer College, was a community organizer, taught English as a second language and U.S. citizenship courses, and worked for the California Teachers Association and National Education Association.

De Leon served in the Assembly in 2006-2010, was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and as president pro tem in 2014.

The 84-year-old Feinstein announced Oct. 9 that she plans seek a fifth full term.

``I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare, I'm all in!'' she tweeted.

Feinstein was first elected in 1992 to fill the remaining two years of the term Republican Pete Wilson was elected to in 1988, then resigned after defeating Feinstein to be elected governor in 1990.

The day after she announced her candidacy for a fifth full term, Feinstein held a fundraising reception in Beverly Hills. The suggested contributions were $1,000, $2,700 and $5,400, and $100 for young professionals.

The contribution limit to a Senate candidate is $2,700 per election. Donors who give the maximum for a primary campaign can again donate the maximum for the general election.

The reception's chairs included former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti and his wife Amy Elaine Wakeland, also a reception chair,  wrote a note to potential donors asking they give to Feinstein so she could avoid a challenge from a fellow Democrat, which would drain resources from the attempt to oust seven California Republican House members as part of the Democrats' efforts to regain control of the House.

The note also praised Feinstein as a ``powerful ally since Eric became mayor'' in 2013, ``helping secure hundreds of millions in federal funds for our transportation infrastructure and to revitalize the LA River.''

The note called Feinstein ``a tireless fighter to house the homeless, clean our air and water, protect our Dreamers and create a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S.''

The fundraiser prompted a rally by activists who want Feinstein to support single-payer health care, which organizer Lauren Steiner called ``a litmus test for progressive Democrats.''

De Leon voted in favor of SB 562, The Healthy California Act, which would create a single-payer health care system in California.

The bill was approved by the Senate June 1. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, announced June 23 it would remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice.

Silicon Valley billionaire Tom Steyer has indicated that he is also considering a challenge to Feinstein. No strong Republican contenders have emerged.

Under California's ``top-two primary'' system the two candidates receiving the most votes in the June primary will advance to the November 2018 general election, regardless of party.

De Leon is fighting history in his challenge to Feinstein. No elected California senator has lost a bid for re-election since 1976 when Democrat John Tunney was denied a second term by Republican S.I. Hayakawa.

No sitting member of the Legislature has won a ``top of the ticket'' race in California (governor or senator) since Democrat Culbert Olson was elected governor in 1938.

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