With Gavin Newsom dropping out of the governor’s race and leaving Jerry Brown as the only Democratic candidate, speculation was sure to rise about Senator Dianne Feinstein and whether she would seek to avenge her narrow 1990 defeat and run for governor in 2010. Sure, most observers don’t think she’d do it, but until she flatly denies it, the chatter will continue.
And it’s going to continue after the AP caught up with her and asked her about the governor’s race. She didn’t rule it out, but made it obvious that she’s primarily in it for the attention:
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday she will base a decision on whether to run for California governor next year largely on the solutions the announced candidates put forward to deal with the state’s fiscal problems….
“What does affect it is watching to see what precise programs are put forward by various candidates to handle what is a very serious structural budget deficit in this state,” Feinstein said. “It’s of major consequence and California is in considerable distress, and there have to be reforms.”
Feinstein said she would take a close look at candidates’ dedication to enacting their proposals as well as their ability to develop enough support to enact the changes.
There’s really only one way to read this: she’s going to endorse Jerry Brown, say he meets her standards, and wait to do so until a moment when it will be of maximum benefit to Brown.
Feinstein and Brown are good friends. She officiated his wedding in 2005, and speaking as someone who’s officiated a wedding himself, one of the last things I’d do is challenge the groom in a race for the state’s top office.
Feinstein also will likely be loath to give up her Senate seniority, which is likely to become even more important in the coming years. Ironically, a loss of Democratic seats in the Senate would make DiFi even more powerful and important than she is now, as she’s seen as a bipartisan dealmaker.
For those and other reasons, it seems unlikely that DiFi wants to run for governor. Instead she’s teasing the media, enjoying the attention she gets. As the interview made clear:
When asked if she had the patience to deal with a state Legislature that has often been described as dysfunctional, she replied: “That’s a very good question. It shall be unanswered for the moment.”
The reason “it shall be unanswered for the moment” is because she doesn’t want to give up the attention she gets out of being seen as a possible candidate. And the “for the moment” statement seems to reinforce the argument I laid out above, that she isn’t going to run, and is going to endorse Brown at some moment in the spring of 2010.
California Democrats who think a contested primary is good for the party and good for the ultimate nominee are going to have to keep looking for another candidate – it ain’t gonna be DiFi. And thank god for it. As uncertain I am about whether Jerry Brown would be the right person to lead California out of our present crisis, I am completely certain Dianne Feinstein would be the wrong person. Let’s hope she decides to retire in 2012 and trouble us no more.