Kevin de León has served in the California State Legislature for 11 years, representing the Los Angeles area; since 2014, he has been Senate president pro tempore. Last November, de León announced that he would be challenging incumbent Democratic US Senator Dianne Feinstein in the open primary, scheduled for June 5. On February 1, Sasha Abramsky interviewed de León in Sacramento.
Sasha Abramsky: Why are you running?
Kevin de León: I think that we are long overdue for a debate on the issues, the values, and the priorities that we care about. It’s been more than a quarter of a century since we’ve had that debate. These are very historic times in our nation, very dangerous times in our state. And it’s time that we have a voice that’s reflective of the California of today. This is not the time for complacency or patience, but to do everything in our power to protect our communities, our economic prosperity, our progressive values, and our people. Our environment, climate change, the Dreamers, creating real economic opportunities so we can grow the middle class.
SA: I’m sure that Senator Feinstein would say the same things. What sets you apart from her?
KDL: What we have done dramatically in California is lead the entire nation. For example, we have created more jobs in clean energy in California than there are coal-mining jobs in all of America. In terms of the Dreamers, we have defended the Dreamers by investing $25 million to provide legal services, we have made California a sanctuary state. These are times that require real action, not being on the sidelines but on the front lines.
SA: How would you debate these issues with Senator Feinstein?
KDL: I believe strongly that, for example, I wouldn’t have voted for the war—now we are 17 years straight in Afghanistan and this war has cost us over $1 trillion so far. These types of votes have real consequences on human life as well as our budget: money that we could have utilized best in education, in job creation through investments in our infrastructure, our roads, our highways, in clean energy, in investments in precision medicine to find the next cure for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
On immigration, I’ve always believed one of our greatest strengths is our diversity and inclusivity. She has been an immigration hawk since the beginning of her tenure as a senator, voting for a border wall before Donald Trump, in 2006 [the Secure Fence Act].