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Progressive Katie Porter announces Senate bid amid uncertainty over Feinstein's future

WASHINGTON — Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., a progressive star who won re-election in November, on Tuesday announced her campaign for the Senate in 2024.

In a video announcing her bid, Porter said she’s running because California “needs a warrior in Washington” who will stand up to powerful banking, oil and pharmaceutical interests.

Porter’s announcement comes amid uncertainty over whether Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who at 89 is the longest serving female senator, will retire at the end of 2024.

Porter did not refer to Feinstein in her video announcement, but said that “it’s time for new leadership in the U.S. Senate.” By jumping in now — 22 months before the election — Porter is beating some well-funded potential rivals, including Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Ro Khanna, to the punch.

Porter, a progressive in her third term, has reportedly considered a Senate bid ahead of Feinstein’s possible retirement, Politico reported last week. Feinstein has been expected to retire after her current term but has remained tight-lipped on her plans and has said she would not leave before the end of her term. A spokesperson for Feinstein told the Los Angeles Times last month that she “has no plans to step down and will announce her plans for 2024 at the appropriate time.”

Feinstein reiterated her earlier remarks in a statement issued Tuesday, following Porter’s announcement.

“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,” Feinstein said. “Right now I’m focused on ensuring California has all the resources it needs to cope with the devastating storms slamming the state and leaving more than a dozen dead.”

Feinstein’s potential retirement is expected to set off a mad dash for the seat among members of California’s Democratic bench. Potential progressive rivals appeared to knock Porter for launching her bid during deadly storms that have hit the Golden State.

Khanna, a top ally of Bernie Sanders, told NBC News following Porter’s announcement that he will make a decision about the Senate race in the next few months but is focused on severe rain and flooding in the state that has turned deadly.

“Right now, California is facing severe storms and floods, and my district is facing historic weather conditions,” Khanna said. “My focus is on that. In the next few months, I will make a decision.”

A source close to Schiff, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman and close ally of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called it an “incredible mistake” for Porter to launch her bid amid a historic storms that have claimed the life of more than a dozen people, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of Californians.

“We are not going to announce in the middle of a natural disaster, and are surprised that others would do so,” the source said. “We’re not playing politics in the middle of a natural disaster that has left people dead.”

Schiff has signaled for months he will run for the Senate. He dropped out of a House leadership race, and in December met with Feinstein to personally inform her of his intentions to run for her seat, the source said.

Porter won re-election to a third term in November against a challenge from former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh, a Republican. Her race for the 47th Congressional District seat in coastal Orange County was listed as a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Porter proved a strong fundraiser for her campaign in the 2022 midterm election cycle, raising more than $23 million compared to Baugh, who raised more than $2 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

An adviser to Baugh told NBC News on Tuesday that the Republican candidate will run for the Orange County district again in 2024, adding that a formal announcement would be coming soon.

“He has been fielding calls of encouragement all morning,” the adviser said.

Porter, 48, has drawn attention for viral videos that feature her sharp questioning of witnesses testifying before Congress. The former law school professor is often seen with a dry-erase board that she uses to list digestible facts and figures to outline her point.

“I don’t do Congress the way others often do, I use whatever power I have to speak hard truths to the powers that be, to not just challenge the status quo, but call it out, name names, and demand justice,” Porter said in her video announcement, which featured a clip of her using a whiteboard during a congressional hearing.

Porter began her first term in Congress in 2019 and serves as deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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