Staunch pro-Israel Democrat Adam Schiff declares Senate run for California

In announcing campaign, Jewish lawmaker who led impeachment of former president Trump warns ‘democracy is under assault from MAGA extremists’

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California, during a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, on June 21, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California, during a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, on June 21, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — One Jewish Democrat wants to replace a fellow Jewish Democrat as the California senator.

Rep. Adam Schiff, who rose to prominence during Donald Trump’s presidency as one of the top critics of the former president, announced a Senate run on Thursday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is 89 and was first elected to the seat in 1992, has yet to announce she is retiring, but insiders say it is increasingly difficult for her to handle the job.

Schiff, a solid pro-Israel Democrat who gets consistent backing from mainstream pro-Israel political action committees, led the first set of impeachment proceedings against Trump. As the focus of Trump’s ire, the former president bestowed on Schiff a number of insulting nicknames, some unprintable. One of them, “Shifty Schiff,” drew accusations that Trump was peddling an antisemitic trope.

Schiff, 62, took aim at Trump in a statement announcing his run.

“We’re in the fight of our lives for the future of our country,” Schiff said. “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.”

Another California Democrat in the House of Representatives, progressive Katie Porter, has also declared for the 2024 Senate race. Like Porter, Schiff says that a Senate run requires time, and that he cannot afford to wait until Feinstein makes her decision.

“We need to start preparing for the fights ahead right now,” Schiff, a formidable fundraiser who has deep ties among Jewish and pro-Israel donors, said in a donor email after his announcement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat-California., arrives for the Senate Democratic Caucus leadership election at the Capitol in Washington, on December 8, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Schiff is well known in his Los Angeles district for championing the cause of Armenians and their quest to have the 1915 massacres in Turkey labeled a genocide. His district has a substantial Armenian-American population, but he once explained another motive, having to do with his support for Israel. “I know what it’s like to be part of a people with affinity for a distant country,” he once told an Armenian-American newspaper.

Schiff was until recent weeks the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. As chairman of the committee from 2019 through 2022, he led some of the most damaging investigations of Trump. He succeeded in impeaching Trump in the House for the former president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden in exchange for defense assistance. (The Senate would then acquit Trump.)

The new House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, this week used his privilege to block Schiff and another prominent anti-Trump Democrat, California’s Eric Swalwell, from rejoining the committee.

After serving as mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein became the country’s first Jewish woman in the Senate in 1992. Once a reliable centrist pro-Israel voice, she became a critic of some of Israel’s military tactics in the 2000s.

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