Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has officially launched her bid to replace the retiring Dianne Feinstein in the US Senate.
Lee’s announcement had been long expected. The 76-year-old, known for her anti-war and pro-racial justice stances, would be only the third Black woman to ever become a Senator. To do so, she will have to emerge from a crowded field of hopefuls looking to replace Feinstein.
Rep. Lee officially launched her campaign with a 3-minute long video uploaded to social media.
“No one is rolling out the welcome mat, especially for someone like me,” Lee says in a voiceover at the beginning of the video. As the video progresses, Lee recounts the challenges that she overcame in her younger life, including domestic violence, single motherhood, and homelessness. She also touts that she “wrote California’s first violence against women’s act” as well as laws against anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.
The video ends with a crowd chanting her campaign slogan, “Barbara Lee speaks for me.”
The California Senate race has been expected to be competitive for some time. As reports of Sen. Feinstein’s declining health fueled reports that she would retire after her current term. Since Feinstein’s announcement last week that she would not be running for reelection in 2024, Rep. Katie Porter and Rep. Adam Schiff have declared their campaigns for the seat. Other potential candidates, such as Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna and Republicans Brian Dahle and Mark Meuser, could also enter the race.
Currently serving her 12th term in Congress, Lee has represented California in the House of Representatives since 1998. As mentioned in her campaign video, Lee’s controversial vote early in her congressional career gained her infamy. Immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for Use of Military Force that gave President George W. Bush the authority to invade Afghanistan and enabled the larger War on Terror. At the time, Lee’s lone “no” vote was extremely controversial, with critics calling her everything from a “clueless liberal” to a traitor, as well as various racial attacks. Over time, her colleagues on both sides of the aisle came to agree with her and support the repeal of the broad war powers given to the office of the president.
Since her controversial 2001 vote, Lee has regularly voted to end or limit American military involvement in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, though she has voted in favor of American support for Ukraine in its current conflict against Russia.
Domestically, Lee has championed racial justice and rights for women and minorities. She has shared her own story of traveling to Mexico to have an abortion in “a clinic in a back alley” before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion throughout the United States. In 2020, Lee teamed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley to introduce the “The Anti-Racism in Public Health Act of 2020,” seeking to have racism declared a public health crisis.
If she wins, Lee will be only the third Black woman to serve in the Senate, after Carol Mosely Braun of Illinois and Kamala Harris, who represented California before becoming Vice President; Lee was actually on the shortlist to replace Harris but was ultimately not chosen. Now, Lee’s path to the Senate will have to include overcoming her popular Democratic opponents and winning a statewide general election. Based on her campaign video, she seems prepared for the fight. “To do nothing has never been an option for me,” Lee says, and she has set herself up to do a lot in this campaign season.