Yet even though Lee won a slight majority of delegate votes, she was effectively tied with Schiff and fell short of the 60 percent threshold needed to gain approval. It was not the decisive moment she apparently needed to change the trajectory of the race.
Several Democrats have told POLITICO in recent weeks that Lee could change course if she doesn’t do well at the convention, and perhaps even choose to leave the race and run for re-election to the House. This would disrupt the plans of Democrat Lateefah Simon, the favorite to replace Lee in the East Bay district. But the people Lee spoke with this weekend, who were granted anonymity to share private conversations, said she has made clear her intention to stay in the Senate race.
“The congresswoman is running a race, and that is to be the next senator from California,” said Anna Bahr, a senior campaign adviser.
That means Lee will have to find a spark elsewhere — perhaps starting with his support for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. The issue deeply divides Democrats across the country. Lee is trying to use it to consolidate progressives in California. She sees her vote against the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks as a demonstration of her foresight and independence.
The three major Democratic candidates agree on most other issues, so the conflict could be the most important distinction heading into the March 5 primary. “There is a very stark contrast between their attitudes toward the military and foreign policy,” Bahr said.
Lee’s Super PAC recently began airing a television ad introducing her to voters across the state. And she will have pre-primary debates to improve her position in the race. Yet it remains a daunting task – one she will now be forced to accomplish without the party’s imprimatur.
Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.
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