LOS ANGELES — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who rose to national prominence as the lead prosecutor in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial, said Thursday he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by long-serving Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress at age 89. She has yet to say whether she will seek another term in 2024.
Schiff, 62, said the job demands a “fighter” who will stand up for democratic ideals and push for a country that is equitable for all its citizens.
“If our democracy isn’t delivering for Americans, they’ll look for alternatives, like a dangerous demagogue who promises that he alone can fix it,” Schiff added, an obvious reference to Trump, who has announced his 2024 campaign for the presidency.
Schiff’s announcement comes two weeks after U.S. Rep. Katie Porter became the first candidate to declare her candidacy for the safe Democratic seat.
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor who joined the Senate in 1992, told reporters this week that she will make a decision about 2024 in the “next couple of months.”
The emerging contest has created a politically awkward dynamic for Feinstein, who has broken gender barriers throughout her career in local and national politics. In recent years, questions have arisen about her cognitive health and memory, though she has defended her effectiveness in representing a state that is home to nearly 40 million people.
Schiff said in an interview Thursday that he had spoken to Feinstein a day earlier to inform her about his plans.
“I want to make sure that everything I did was respectful of her and that I did so with her knowledge and her blessing,” Schiff told The Associated Press.
Asked if he was aware of the senator’s plans, Schiff said, “I don’t want to presume to speak for Sen. Feinstein and I think she’s earned the right to announce her decision when she’s ready to make that announcement.”
Schiff was first elected to Congress in 2000 and represents parts of Hollywood. He has been a frequent target of conservatives — Trump in particular — since the then-GOP-led House Intelligence Committee he served on started investigating Trump’s ties to Russia in the 2016 election. Schiff was frequently on television questioning Trump’s actions.
That criticism intensified when Democrats took the House majority in early 2019 and he became the committee chairman, and reached a full-on roar with his role in the impeachment investigation of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
On Tuesday, new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reiterated his intention to block Schiff from continuing his committee service.
McCarthy contended that Schiff used his leadership position during Trump’s first impeachment to “lie to the American public again and again” — a claim Schiff rejected.
With the centrist Feinstein in the twilight of her career, the race in the heavily Democratic state already is shaping up as a showcase for an ambitious, younger generation on the party’s left wing.
Asked how he would stand out in what is expected to be a crowded field, Schiff said he would emphasize his central role of national struggles over democracy and the economy.
“I think that record of leadership, that record of staunch defense of our democracy, and the way that I’ve championed an economy that works for everyone, I think are a powerful record to run on,” he said.