Senator Kevin de León speaks at Promesa Boyle Heights press conference at Méndez High School.

Kevin de León is positioning himself as a progressive alternative to a more conservative yet very influential Dianne Feinstein, as he challenges the four-term U.S. Senator for her seat.

The top-ranking California state senator announced his bid Sunday in an email to supporters where he described a stark future under Trump’s presidency. The president pro tem of the California Senate said the state deserves greater representation of its values, diversity, and environmentalism.

De León officially launched his campaign Wednesday at a Los Angeles event:

Happening now: LIVE from LA, watch our campaign kick-off event: #TeamKDL

— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) October 18, 2017

California works best when everyone has an opportunity to succeed.

Sign up and join our campaign:

— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) October 18, 2017

De León represents a Los Angeles district that encompasses parts of Downtown and the Eastside, including Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, City Terrace, Lincoln Heights, Little Tokyo, Echo Park and other neighborhoods.

Political analysts say the campaign will be a hard fight for De León, as Feinstein is seen as an influential force both within her Democrat party and with Republican colleagues. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2008, then presidential contenders and Senators Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton met in Feinstein’s living room, to ease their tense relationship.

Additionally, the Times reports that Feinstein –an 84-year-old multi-millionaire with a reported net worth of $52.8 million– could fund her own campaign, while De León’s fundraising ability is seen as one of his biggest weaknesses.

Progressive and young Democrats have expressed their frustrations with Feinstein recently. California’s senior U.S. Senator faced serious backlash when she called for “patience” with Trump over the summer. Feinstein was also booed at a San Francisco town hall event in August for her lack of support for a single-payer healthcare system, the Times reports.

A former San Francisco mayor, Feinstein was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

De León, also a Democrat, is widely considered to be symbol of change and progressive values. The 50-year-old former community organizer is the first Latino in over a century to be elected leader of the state Senate. He was born to Guatemalan immigrants in Los Angeles and raised by a single mother in San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood.

De Leon has fought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recently signed legislation for a “sanctuary state” measure. He has received endorsements from Democracy for America, California Assembly members Lorena González Fletcher and Kevin McCarty, and former state Senator Dean Florez.

Photo above: Senator Kevin de León at Méndez High School in January. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas.

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Kyle Garcia

Kyle García is a former web editor with Boyle Heights Beat.

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