Democratic California Rep. Katie Porter announced her 2024 bid for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, a bold move as Washington waits to hear whether incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will seek reelection or retire.
In a statement following Porter’s announcement, Feinstein said “everyone is of course welcome to throw their hat in the ring,” adding she will lay out her plans for 2024 “at the appropriate time.” Feinstein, 89, has faced increased scrutiny and concern over her mental acuity in the last year. Should she announce her retirement, the field of candidates vying to replace her is expected to be crowded.
Porter’s House campaign reported raising more money during the 2022 election cycle than other rumored California U.S. Senate candidates even as she rejected contributions from corporate PACs and lobbyists. The California congresswoman was the top House Democratic fundraiser for the 2022 election cycle through the post-general period.
Porter’s campaign reported raising $25.4 million, around $1 million more than former House speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reported raising through the same period. The only U.S. House candidate who raised more money than Porter was newly-elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who reported $26.5 million raised during the 2022 election cycle.
Following a 3-point victory over her Republican challenger in the midterm election, Porter’s House campaign reported $7.7 million on hand through the post-general period that she can use for her Senate bid.
About $581,000 of Porter’s campaign haul came from PACs. Most of that came from ideological or single-issue groups, including $10,000 from a Democratic hybrid PAC called the Voter Protection Project, $5,500 from progressive campaign finance reform group End Citizens United and $102,900 from leadership PACs.
Leadership PACs affiliated with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) contributed $10,000 each to Porter’s campaign during the 2022 midterm election. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorsed Porter’s U.S. Senate bid on NBC on Thursday morning. Warren’s leadership PAC, PAC for a Level Playing Field, contributed $10,000 to Porter’s House reelection campaign during the 2018 election cycle. Warren terminated her leadership PAC that cycle.
In a video announcing her Senate campaign, Porter vowed to take on special interests including Wall Street, big banks and oil, and the pharmaceutical industry.
“The threat from so-called leaders like [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] has too often made the United States Senate the place where rights get revoked, special interests get rewarded and our democracy gets rigged,” the single working mom said.
Porter is the co-chair and co-founder of the End Corruption Caucus in the U.S. House, which aims “to get Washington answering to working families” rather than large corporations or special interests.
In 2022, the California congresswoman partnered with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to introduce the Stock Act 2.0, which would prohibit members of Congress, the president and vice president, Supreme Court justices and certain members of the Federal Reserve from trading individual stocks. The bill would also require covered officials to disclose whether they, their families or their businesses receive loans, agreements, contracts, grants or payments from the federal government.
Porter also sponsored the Stop Scam PACs Act in August 2022 with Republican Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw. The bill would prohibit the misrepresentation of activities on behalf of candidates and political parties, committees and organizations for other purposes. A joint investigation in 2021 between OpenSecrets and the Daily Beast exposed how the American Breast Cancer Coalition — purporting in robocalls to raise money to “support legislators who will fight for the fast track approval of life saving breast cancer health bills and breast cancer treatment drugs to the FDA” — steered nearly all of the $3.6 million it raised in 2019 and 2020 to fundraising companies.
Neither bill passed in the 117th Congress, but Porter sponsored 48 bills, over twice the median of 22 bills introduced by 435 members of the U.S. House. She co-sponsored an additional 579, hundreds more than the median of 328.
Reps. Lee, Schiff and Khanna — also weighing 2024 U.S. Senate bids — criticize timing of Porter’s announcement
Historic storms in California that have killed at least 17 people and caused massive flooding and mudslides preceded Porter’s announcement, making her an easy target for other California representatives also reportedly weighing bids for Feinstein’s U.S. Senate seat.
“While the United States Senate is sorely lacking the presence of people of color, Black women in particular, today I am focused on helping Californians stay safe in this extreme weather and fighting the House Republicans’ extreme agenda,” wrote Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a former leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement to the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Lee told colleagues in a closed-door Congressional Black Caucus meeting on Wednesday that she will run for the U.S. Senate, POLITICO reported.
Lee’s campaign reported raising $2 million during the 2022 election cycle, including $15,000 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s PAC and $10,000 from PACs affiliated with the National Union of Healthcare Workers, National Education Association, National Association of Realtors and American Federation of Teachers. Her leadership PAC, One Voice, reported raising more than $333,000.
A person close to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — who has expressed interest in running for Feinstein’s seat should she retire — reportedly told POLITICO on Tuesday that they were “perplexed” by Porter’s decision to announce while Californians faced relentless storms.
Another prodigious fundraiser, Schiff’s campaign reported raising $24.4 million during the 2022 election cycle in post-general reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, including $587,000 from individuals and PACs affiliated with lawyers and lobbyists. His top contributors include the University of California, Comcast and lobbying firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney. Schiff’s leadership PAC Frontline USA reported receiving $2.1 million through the same period.
Rep. Ro Khanna, another California Democrat weighing a U.S. Senate bid, said his focus was on his district at this time, adding, “In the coming months, I will make a decision.”
Khanna, like Porter and Lee, is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His campaign reported raising $5.8 million during the 2022 election cycle, including nearly $1.1 million from individuals affiliated with the securities and investment industry. Top contributors to Khanna’s campaign include individuals affiliated with tech giants Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company), Meta, Apple and Twitter, reflecting the Silicon Valley district he represents.
The California congressman has publicly criticized Congress for failing to regulate the tech industry and introduced legislation including the Internet Bill of Rights, but he told POLITICO in December that “Technology is a force that can be used for good.” Khanna, an intellectual property lawyer and a member of the Congressional Antitrust Caucus, pointed to “technological illiteracy” in Congress as a big reason for the lack of federal data privacy laws and antitrust regulations.
Senior Data Analyst Brendan Glavin contributed to this report.