Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Sen. Richard M. Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, at a meeting on Capitol Hill in February. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Cathleen Decker
March 31, 2016

Don’t ask Dianne Feinstein just yet whether she plans to run for a fifth full term in the U.S. Senate, a seat that will be on the ballot in 2018.

“I’ve got two years and nine months — ask me that in about a year,” Feinstein said with a grin Thursday during a meeting with Los Angeles Times editors and reporters. “I’ll give you the answer then.”

Feinstein’s plans have been a hot topic among California politicians for years; she and Sen. Barbara Boxer ran and won seats in 1992, and Boxer will retire after her replacement is elected in November.

Behind the two senators, a generation or two of Democratic politicians have gathered, frustrated by their lack of upward movement. But the Democrat and former mayor of San Francisco said she would decide whether to run again based not on that but on whether she can continue to be effective.

“My health is good,” said Feinstein, who is 82. “I can work hard and continue it. Being effective is the key for me.”

The state’s senior senator has not endorsed a candidate in the race to replace Boxer, and said she will not do so until after the June primary.

But she has very definitive views about the kind of senator California needs.

“I think you have to have a willingness to do your apprenticeship and to really do the work,” she said.

“I see people who go back there, who get a few puff pieces, who run for president — I don’t think that makes a lot of sense to me,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the kind of senator this state needs. I think you need somebody who is really going to do the job and hopefully work with me closely.”

Feinstein does have a pick in the presidential contest: Hillary Clinton, whom she worked with when Clinton served as New York’s senator. After Clinton lost her first presidential bid in 2008, it was Feinstein who brought her and Barack Obama together for a unity meeting.

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