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Ro Khanna endorses Barbara Lee's Senate campaign, announces he won’t run

The California progressive said will he be a co-chair of Lee's campaign.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., outside the Capitol on Dec. 13, 2022.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., outside the Capitol on Dec. 13.Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP file

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said Sunday that he won’t run for the seat of retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein and will endorse Rep. Barbara Lee instead.

Referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Khanna said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “I have concluded that, despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie folks, the best place, the most exciting place, action place, fit place, for me to serve as a progressive is in the House of Representatives.”

Khanna said he will be a co-chair of Lee's campaign, adding, "We need a strong anti-war senator, and she will play that role.”

After three decades in the Senate, Feinstein, 89, said this year that she would retire from Congress at the end of 2024.

Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff announced in January that they're running, joining what’s expected to be a crowded Democratic primary race for Feinstein's seat. The same month, Khanna told Politico that he was also considering a Senate bid.

Lee, who officially announced her Senate campaign last month, has been in the House since 1998 and previously was in both the state Senate and Assembly. She is a co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee.

Lee has also been chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has a long history of speaking out about the need for Congress to revisit the authorization for the use of military force it passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which presidents have used since then as the legal basis to launch military operations.

Khanna nodded to Lee’s having a “unique voice” by being “the lone vote against the endless war in Afghanistan.”

“She stood up so strongly against the war in Iraq,” Khanna said. “She worked with me in trying to stop the war in Yemen, the War Powers Resolution. And frankly, Jake, representation matters.”

Khanna also noted that there isn’t “a single African American woman” in the Senate: "She would fill that role. She will be the only candidate from Northern California, and she’s going to, I think, consolidate a lot of progressives."