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Opinion: Let aging Feinstein serve out her term

Since her election to the U.S. Senate in 1992, no politician has done more for California and its people than 88-year-old Diane Feinstein.

Without Feinstein, there would be no national parks in the redwood country of Northern California or the parts of the Mojave Desert thick with Joshua trees. There would be far fewer federal gun controls. Much more untreated sewage would flow into the Pacific Ocean daily.

Several more California military bases would be shuttered, likely including the Lemoore Naval Air Station and the Seabee base at Point Mugu in Ventura County. The protections of the federal Violence Against Women Act would not exist.

The list goes on and on, from clean air measures to the largest appropriations for California ever gained by any senator. It’s why Feinstein has not had a serious Republican challenger in decades.

But that’s not enough for the far left in California politics. Feinstein, 88, is too old to serve out her term, ending in late 2024, they say. The former San Francisco mayor is insufficiently alert to do her job.

These are similar to charges leveled against Feinstein by leftist former state Senate President Kevin de Leon when he ran against her in 2018 and lost badly. De Leon, now a Los Angeles city councilman and seemingly about to lose again in a bid to become that city’s mayor, miscalculated then. He figured his ageist arguments would resonate with the bulk of Democratic voters that year, but it didn’t happen.

De Leon’s complaints, and those of other “woke” politicos in the state, amount to this: Feinstein does not line up often enough with the ferociously progressive “squad” of House members which now leads her party’s left wing. She is too friendly with Republican senators she has known for more than a generation, and even compliments them once in a while.

They claim that De Leon’s 2018 charge has come true, that Feinstein suffers from cognitive decline due to her age. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this spring that several unnamed former Senate staffers say Feinstein can no longer fulfill her responsibilities without help from her staff. Never mind that the same can be said of most other senators half her age or less.

The fact is that Feinstein has never cast a vote differently than she intended. She has never backed a cause without conscious intent. There is no proof — only hearsay — that her mental state is beneath common Senate standards. Whether she’s as professional and creative as she was at 60 is not at issue, merely whether she’s up to senatorial snuff, and only gossip suggests otherwise.

But that won’t satisfy the “woke” Democratic left in this state, which is impatient to take over Feinstein’s seat, especially since it was thwarted when Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed the somewhat technocratic Alex Padilla to the state’s other Senate seat, vacated when Kamala Harris became vice president.

Padilla, California’s first Latino senator of the modern era, did not satisfy the far left because he’s not a Black woman and they figured the seat he took essentially “belonged” to a Black female like Congresswoman Barbara Lee or former legislator Shirley Weber, Newsom’s choice to replace Padilla as secretary of state.

They want Feinstein out now so Newsom can appoint someone of their choice to her seat, giving that person a leg up on prospective Senate candidates like Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank (leader of one Donald Trump impeachment) or Katie Porter of Irvine, both moderates more in the Feinstein mold.

The fact is that the campaign to replace Feinstein will start this fall, the moment the November election is over, regardless of whether she is still in office or not.

Too bad for De Leon that the last four years have pretty much eliminated him as a serious candidate. If he can’t finish in the top two in his own city’s mayoral primary (and he will not), how can he be a strong statewide candidate for a more significant office?

The bottom line: The wise thing and the fair thing to do is let Feinstein serve out her term, and so what if she needs a boost from her staff once in a while.

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Email Thomas Elias at His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


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