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Adam Schiff running for Senate in California, joining crowded 2024 primary

The congressman is vying for the seat held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has not announced her 2024 plans.
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WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announced Thursday he's running for Senate in 2024, joining what's expected to be a crowded Democratic primary race for the seat held by Dianne Feinstein.

"We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of our country. Our democracy is under assault from MAGA extremists, who care only about gaining power and keeping it. And our economy is simply not working for millions of Americans, who are working harder than ever just to get by," Schiff said in a statement launching his campaign. Already three prominent California Democrats have set their sights on replacing her: Schiff and Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Feinstein has not announced her plans.

Democrats "need a fighter in the U.S. Senate who has been at the center of the struggle for our democracy and our economy," Schiff said, adding that his goals are to achieve universal health care, protect the environment, expand the right to vote, build affordable housing and keep people safe.

"I look forward to campaigning hard in this race, meeting Californians where they are, and listening to what they want from their next Senator," he said. "I hope to earn their votes and their trust."

Schiff, 62, has served in the House since 2001 and just recently ended his tenure as the chair of the Intelligence Committee, during which he played a key role in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump. He was the panel's ranking member when Republicans held the House majority from 2015 to 2019.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blocked Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., from serving on the Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, making good on a promise he made last year. Swalwell played a key role in Trump's second impeachment after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“One of the sad realizations for me over the past several years is the principal threat to our country now comes from within,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell in an interview Thursday night. “It comes from a demagogue like Donald Trump. It comes from the 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted to overturn a presidential election because their ambition for office was greater than their devotion to the Constitution.”

He also credited McCarthy with giving him added motivation to seek the Senate seat.

“I do think that Kevin McCarthy gave me another powerful reason for Californians to vote for me, and that is they can make Adam Schiff Kevin McCarthy’s home state senator," Schiff said.

Porter, who has been in the House since 2019, launched a campaign for the seat this month.

A day later, Lee told members of the Congressional Black Caucus that she also plans to run for the Senate next year, adding her name to the list of contenders. Lee, 76, has been in the House since 1998 and previously served in both the state Senate and the state Assembly. She is a co-chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee.

Feinstein, 89, still hasn’t made her re-election intentions known yet, but a source with direct knowledge said Schiff had previously met with her to inform her of his intentions.

Feinstein is expected to retire after her current term, but she has remained tight-lipped about her plans and has said she would not leave early. A spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times last month that Feinstein "has no plans to step down and will announce her plans for 2024 at the appropriate time."

Feinstein's office denied a report by the news outlet Raw Story that quoted her as saying she did not plan to announce her decision until next year.

"Senator Feinstein was speaking about the timing of the election, not her announcement," a Feinstein spokesperson told NBC News. "As she told several news outlets yesterday, she still intends to announce her decision in the coming months."