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Far ahead in polls, Feinstein is in no hurry to campaign during August recess

Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- For senators facing re-election in November, the August recess is typically a frantic dash to squeeze in last-minute campaigning back home. And this year the window is even narrower because the summer break is shorter than usual.

But California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein isn't hosting any public campaign events during the 13-day break.

Such is the benefit of being 20 points ahead in the polls. Many of Feinstein's colleagues don't have that luxury.

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp hurried back to North Dakota for public meetings on opioid addiction and campaign stops. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with voters about health insurance coverage of preexisting conditions and natural gas storage. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is barnstorming across Texas, challenging his Democratic rival to a debate and asking the president to help with his unexpectedly tough re-election bid.

Meanwhile, Feinstein spent two days at Lake Tahoe at a conference she attends nearly every year in the August break, an official event paid for by taxpayers through her Senate office. There she also met with Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott.

Her campaign pointed to two events she's attending during the break: a private interview with the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune on Thursday and helping San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani open her campaign office Saturday.

"Senator Feinstein is busy doing her job and has a mix of official and campaign activities this week," said campaign consultant Bill Carrick.

The Senate returns for votes Wednesday.

University of Southern California political science professor Ann Crigler said most Californians aren't paying attention to the race yet anyway. "It's August. It's a little early," Crigler said.

And Feinstein's low-key recess plans may reflect strategy rather than apathy, Crigler said, adding that campaigning would only draw attention to her opponent as the media strives to balance coverage. "She doesn't really need to draw attention to that because she has a comfortable lead," she said.

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