Updated at 3:40 a.m. June 6, 2018
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein easily cruised into the November runoff election Tuesday evening, outpacing a field of 31 challengers, while Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Léon was edging Republican James P. Bradley in the race for second place.
Thanks to the state’s top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the November runoff, regardless of party affiliation.
With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Feinstein held a commanding lead of 43.9 percent. Her closest challenger, de Léon, was in second place with 11.2 percent of the vote. Bradley was in third place with 8.8 percent.
After Bradley there is a long list of candidates, both Democratic and Republican, with no more than a small percentage of the votes. A total of 32 candidates are on the ballot.
“I’m running for the United States Senate to protect California in what are difficult and contentious times,” Feinstein said. “This means standing up for our values as your United States Senator as well as working to pass legislation important to us in California.
“Together, in this election, we must dedicate ourselves to those values, because they have made California a great state, ending the one-party control of our federal government and moving our nation away from division and polarization. Again, thanks so much for your support and for your faith in me. I’m not going to let you down. Now it’s on to November.”
Feinstein has represented California in the Senate since 1992 and is considered by many political analysts to be a centrist Democrat, although she appears to have moved to the left on some issues during the campaign as de Léon has attempted to position himself as the more progressive choice.
Feinstein used to be in favor of the death penalty and is now opposed to it. She also used to oppose recreational marijuana but now supports it, and her shifts on both issues are seen as an abandonment of her image as a tough-on-crime soldier in the war on drugs.
Feinstein is perhaps best known as a strong advocate for gun control and for being the author of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004. She has made gun control a focus of her current campaign as the issue has been a national talking point in the aftermath of several mass shootings.
De Léon represents the state Senate’s 24th District, which encompasses downtown and East Los Angeles. He has sought to position himself as the more liberal, more progressive choice for Democrats, and in particular, one who will be a tougher critic and enemy of President Donald Trump.
De Léon, the first Latino president pro tem of the California Senate in more than a century, has seized on comments that Feinstein made when she said voters should have “patience” with Trump and that she still hoped he could be a “good president.” De Léon has said the comments, and Feinstein’s reputation as a pragmatic centrist, make her the wrong choice to challenge Trump on immigration and other issues, as the president is deeply unpopular in California.
Bradley’s success in polls had confounded some political experts, as little is known about him and he has raised little money. Why he has stood out among Republican voters is unclear. Paul Mitchell, vice president of the bipartisan voter data firm Political Data, opined that Bradley’s support in an early UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll was because it listed the candidates in alphabetical order, and he was the first GOP candidate with “an Anglo-sounding name” and a respectable-sounding job of chief financial officer, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Bradley himself told The Bee he was “shocked” at the poll, but his support held in last week’s IGS poll, which found him still leading all other Republicans despite the names appearing in a different order.
— City News Service contributed to this report.