Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Wednesday told colleagues that she intends to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, according to a person familiar with the conversation, revealing her plans to join a race that several House Democrats have shown interest in this week.
Lee informed fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus of her thinking, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. Lee’s remarks did not amount to a formal announcement, said this person, who added that Lee is “getting her ducks in a row and figuring things out” and has spoken to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about her intentions.
Asked later about her plans, Lee told The Washington Post, “There’s a time to talk about and that’s what I said, you know, I’ll talk about the Senate race once the timing is right. And that’s what I’m gonna do, once the time is right.” She expressed respect for Feinstein and noted the ongoing flooding in her district.
“We need to give her that respect, I don’t care who it is, and that’s what I’m doing,” she said of Feinstein. Lee added, “We’ll talk about it when the storm passes and when it’s appropriate.”
The person familiar with the Wednesday conversation said of Lee, “She is making plans to run, it’s not a secret.” This person added that there is no timeline yet for an announcement or launch and also noted the ongoing natural disaster in California amid severe storms and flooding.
Politico first reported Lee’s remarks. Her closed-door comments came a day after fellow Democratic Rep. Katie Porter announced publicly she would run for the seat.
Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator, filed initial paperwork to run for reelection in 2024 last year, but has not explicitly said whether she will seek another term. California leans heavily Democratic and utilizes an all-party primary system in which the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.
On Tuesday, Lee told The Post that the Senate is “sorely lacking the presence of people of color, Black women in particular.”
Should Feinstein, 89, step down before the end of her term, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would appoint a Black woman to fill the seat. There have been no Black women in the Senate since Vice President Harris — a Black woman whose political career started in the San Francisco Bay area, like Lee — resigned her seat to serve in the Biden administration.
Following Porter’s announcement on Tuesday, Feinstein said in a statement, “Everyone is of course welcome to throw their hat in the ring, and I will make an announcement concerning my plans for 2024 at the appropriate time.”
Porter faced criticism from allies of her potential opponents, including Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, for announcing her Senate bid during the continued floods in the state.
“I don’t think you announce your next political steps in the middle of a natural disaster where 15 people are already dead and more could come,” said one person familiar with Schiff’s thinking on Tuesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
Asked about his intentions on Wednesday, Schiff said he is focused on “helping Californians get through these awful storms.”
In an interview with The Post on Wednesday, Porter said, “These floods are really an example of the continued extreme weather and the consequences of having a Washington that’s broken, a Washington that works for special interests and Big Oil.” She added, “I live there, I’m raising my kids there. I’m well aware of all the rain and trying to make sure that there’s — what can we do as Congress members to help at this time?”
Porter said she thinks Feinstein “will make her own decision on her own time. And I’m making my own decision and my own time. And I think that’s the mutual respect that we should have for each other.”
“If you wait around for asking, for women, I think it’s important to step up and lead when you’re ready,” Porter added.
One possible competitor taking note of Lee’s plans is Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who said he would take her decision into consideration before making his own decision by the end of March.
“I do have a respect for her and the cause of seeing representation for an African American woman, and that is something I would factor in, candidly,” he told The Post on Tuesday, noting he is in conversations with Lee. The two, like Porter, both hail from the Democratic Caucus’s more liberal ranks.
Schiff’s potential campaign is considered an open secret among other California Democrats in Congress, who have taken note of the potential for a crowded field.
“It’s very challenging every time we have this sort of competition within the family,” one of his House colleagues from California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely about the developing race.
Amy B Wang contributed to this report.