Katie Porter and Barbara Lee: The Women Vying to Replace Diane Feinstein

Annabella Gizzi | April 25th, 2023

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Although the news coverage of one of California’s US Senate seats has largely focused on Diane Feinstein’s absence and the judicial backlog it has caused, the biggest focus should be on the candidates vying to replace her, including two women: Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. It might be early on in the campaign season, but these women will be important to watch in the coming months.


Katie Porter first ran for the US House of Representatives in 2018 and was part of the historic new class of female members of Congress that included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, among others. Porter successfully flipped California’s 45th district, becoming the first Democrat to ever represent the district. A member of the House Progressive Caucus, Porter is one of the leading progressives in Congress and is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. She was reelected in 2020 and 2022. Porter is known for her persistent questioning methods during committee hearings and has garnered both support and criticism as a result. 


Barbara Lee, on the other hand, was first elected in 1998 in a special election, and has been reelected twelve more times. Lee has dedicated her life to public service, serving the public in both the California State Senate and California State Assembly. Lee was also an early champion for LGBTQ+ rights. Arguably her most notable moment was when she was the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of military force after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She is one of the most vocal members of the antiwar movement in the United States. Aside from her willingness to vote her conscience, Lee has also overcome some of the worst racism throughout her life. Born in segregated Texas, Lee has often described being the only Black person in many situations, including being the only Black girl in her Girl Scouts troop, something she says she was bullied for. Lee is a member of the House Progressive Caucus and serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Committee on Budget. She has been endorsed by Rep. Ro Khanna in the race for the Senate seat. 


Because California is considered a “Solid Democrat” state for the 2024 US Senate election by Cook Political, the real competition will be the Democratic primary. California uses open primaries and elections are configured so that the top two candidates advance to the general election, which means that it is likely that two Democratic candidates will advance. Porter and Lee will also face Adam Schiff in the primary. All three candidates are members of the US House of Representatives, meaning that their seats will be open as well.


Works Cited:

“2024 Senate Race Ratings.” Cook Political Report, https://www.cookpolitical.com/ratings/senate-race-ratings

“Barbara Lee (California).” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Barbara_Lee_(California)

“Katie Porter.” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Katie_Porter

“Primary Elections in California.” Primary Elections in California :: California Secretary of State, https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/primary-elections-california