Nunes staffer says congressman won't challenge Feinstein

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 7, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, is not running for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Nunes's chief of staff said Monday.

While falling somewhat short of a flat-out political declaration of permanent disinterest, the statement Monday seemed to step back from the congressman's earlier suggestions that he might be enticed into the Senate race.

"Devin is running for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, period," said the congressman's chief of staff, Johnny Amaral. "He's not running for the Senate."

Pressed as to whether this means Nunes is definitively ruling out a future challenge to Feinstein, Amaral repeated that "the reality is, he's not running" for the Senate.

Nunes is traveling this week as part of his work on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and could not be reached to comment directly.

Bill Carrick, Feinstein's campaign adviser, indicated Monday that a statewide bid by Nunes would be a long shot in any event.

"His capacity to run a statewide campaign doesn't appear to be very strong," Carrick said. "He has a record that is far too right-wing to run in the state of California."

A 38-year-old conservative, first elected to the House in 2002, Nunes sparked questions about his potential statewide ambitions when he began running a series of television ads harshly attacking Feinstein in his San Joaquin Valley congressional district.

The ads began running last month and appear to have cost approximately $75,000, according to Carrick. Nunes, who has a safe GOP seat, paid for the ads using some of his surplus campaign funds; as of Sept. 30, Nunes reported having $1.35 million in available campaign cash.

Questions about Nunes' intentions further accelerated with publication over the weekend of a Gannett News Service article, in which Nunes left open the possibility he might run against the 78-year-old Feinstein.

"Could it be me? Sure," Nunes said, according to the Gannett article. "There would have to be a lot of things to fall in place."

Amaral stressed Monday, though, that Nunes has been trying to convince other Republicans, including Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, or SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory physicist Charles Munger, to consider a run.

Dreier's name has repeatedly been floated as a potential Senate candidate over the years, but the veteran of 30 years in the House has never pulled the trigger. Munger, who holds a doctorate in physics from Stanford, previously helped bankroll a California redistricting initiative.

Munger could not be reached to comment Monday.

Other, higher-profile Republicans have steered clear of taking on Feinstein, who was first elected in 1992. Some GOP operatives salivate, though, over a September Field Poll that found 44 percent of Californians surveyed said they were "not inclined" to vote for her, compared to 41 percent who said they were.

"She's at an all-time low," Amaral said, but when it comes to Feinstein's next challenger, he added, "it's not going to be Devin."

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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