10/21/2006 02:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Senator Feinstein: Lead California

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Senator Feinstein is spending $4 million next week on ads for her Senate campaign here in California. If you don't live in California, you may not know that the Senator is up for reelection. But don't feel uninformed. If you do live in California, you probably do not know that she's up either.

The senior senator, it seems, does not want the season to pass without a reminder that she's a grandmother, a defender of the environment and that we have troops to bring home from Iraq. That'd be all well and good if this were December and she was sending out video Christmas cards, but this is in fact election season and there is no way, I repeat no way including her untimely demise, that Senator Feinstein can lose her bid for reelection. The polls have her at 57-29% against a dreadful, right-wing race baiter-named Dick Mountjoy. Mr. Mountjoy intimidates his opponent with his $20,000 cash hoard (I did not lose a zero anywhere) to Senator Feinstein's $7 million. Scary stuff.

As I wrote last April when Senator Feinstein's campaign chair Roz Wyman hung up on me for not writing a check to Senator Feinstein because I, like so many others, have been writing and raising for candidates who really need the money, why is the Senator doing this? Who knows, but a few possibilities come to mind:

1. Kam Kuwata, the Senator's campaign manager, needed to get some shopping money for Christmas gifts; what better way than to take a percentage of a media buy? Ten percent of $4 million ads up to a cool $400,000, which, even after reduced taxes, should allow Kam to get a few nice trinkets for his friends.

2. The Senator wants to be sure that Californians know that she is an independent, which is why her web site and ads contain not one word about Democrats.

3. The kvelling grandmother in her just had to share with the rest of us.

Otherwise, I just don't get it. Consider the state of this state. We have thirteen ballot initiatives, including obligations for nearly $40 billion in debt, a roll back on choice and environmental protection, a gubernatorial race that might generate sparks if the Democrat stood barefoot in a puddle and clutched an exposed electrical wire. The initiatives actually dampen turn out because they are so varied and numerous and follow the very expensive and unpopular ballot initiative election last year that voters are fatigued. In June, we had the lowest turnout for a primary election since the late 1940s. With no excitement at the top of the ticket, hundreds of millions flying over the airwaves designed to confuse voters about the propositions and no popular Democrats leading the way, we're headed in that direction for the general election. That could mean that we'll not only have a reelected Governor Schwarzenegger, but three Republican statewide elected officials along with him. Only four years ago, all of the statewide officials were Democrats.

This can have huge impact in 2008, because Democrats will face a well organized California Republican party with a popular governor at the helm. Therefore, for the first time since 1992, we could face a contested presidential election here in California. Democrats simply cannot win the presidency if they do not win California's 55 electoral votes. And it's tough even to imagine how they win it if they have to invest the tens of millions in media to hold the state, because then where do we get the money for all of those so-called battle ground states? Think of it. If Senator Feinstein is spending $4 million now on video post cards, how much would Democrats have to spend in a fight against John McCain backed by Governor Schwarzenegger and three other statewide elected officials?

And then there's the small matter of winning the House back this year. At least three congressional seats are winnable here, including those held now by Doolittle, Pombo and Bilbray. I asked Roz last spring to ask the popular Senator Feinstein to help some of those running for tough seats that can change the balance of power nationally so that the Senator's granddaughter could realize her dreams sooner. I'm asking again.

Our own California Courage Campaign is putting up our ad, California"s Future, next week to try to show voters why this election in California is really about sending Bush a message and about stopping extremists at the door. It's tough scraping together a few tens of thousands of dollars to get that message out, to exhort progressives to vote this year to hold onto our rights, much less to win back a few more. Imagine what we could do with even Kam's $400,000 commission?

It's not too late. Pull the ads and put the money into GOTV and California campaigns. Share the wealth, Senator. Lead. That'll really make your granddaughter proud.