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Feinstein endorses Clinton for president

July 26, 2007|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Citing Hillary Rodham Clinton's "hard-tempered" experience as first lady, popular California Democrat Dianne Feinstein endorsed her U.S. Senate colleague's White House bid Wednesday, adding another significant name to Clinton's list of West Coast political backers.

Both senators referred to the history-making potential of the election -- Clinton, should she win, would be the nation's first female president. Both also sought to emphasize Clinton's credentials as a two-term senator with eight years of proximity to the Oval Office while her husband, Bill Clinton, was president.

"The position of America today really warrants someone in her shoes, and the fact that her shoes maybe have an inch or two of heels doesn't matter," Feinstein said in a conference call with reporters.

Feinstein said the U.S. faced major challenges: ending the Iraq war, restoring the nation's international standing, addressing healthcare and education reform and electing a president who would "nominate mainstream Supreme Court justices."

Clinton, she said, is her choice to address those challenges.

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, won her Senate seat in 1992, the same election that gave Bill Clinton the White House.

The brief conference call grew testy when a reporter mentioned another prominent Clinton supporter in California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and the scandal surrounding the married mayor's affair with Telemundo newscaster Mirthala Salinas.

"I am surprised at you for that question," Feinstein snapped, jumping in ahead of Clinton's response. "My goodness! Hillary is running for the president of the United States. She doesn't need to get into this."

After saying she echoed Feinstein's comments, Clinton told reporters that she had spoken with Villaraigosa, and then sought to steer the focus to policy.

"I think that his work on behalf of many of the issues that I care about is very significant," said Clinton, whose own marriage has endured infidelity. "I will continue to welcome his support."

Clinton also has been endorsed by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and former Gov. Gray Davis. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) has yet to endorse a candidate.

Rose Kapolczynski, a Boxer political consultant, said the senator was "staying neutral in the presidential race."

"She has four friends in the Senate who are running, and she's told me that she believes that any one of them would make a great president," Kapolczynski said, referring to Clinton and Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut.

Polls show that Clinton and Obama are leading the Democratic field in California. Obama has gained endorsements from State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, State Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass, former Controller Steve Westley and Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti.

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scott.martelle@latimes.com

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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