IRVINE, Calif. — Just months after securing a narrow victory in her Congressional district, U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., announced her intentions to run for U.S. Senate as storms, mudslides and other forces of nature dominated the news cycle on Tuesday.

The timing raised eyebrows among some.

What You Need To Know

  • Porter narrowly won a third term in the 47th Congressional District and announced her campaign for Senate just days after her inauguration into the 118th Congress

  • Congress members do not necessarily have statewide recognition as most of their work pertains to their districts, leading some to question if Californians are familiar enough with Porter

  • Other candidates rumored to have interest would have a similar challenge, like Rep. Adam Schiff 

  • Porter's campaign announced that she raised $1.3 million just hours after her announcement 

“Now there are a whole bunch of people in Northern California who didn’t know who she was and now don’t know she’s running for Senate,” said University of California, Irvine political science professor Tony Smith.

The announcement came after she first floated interest in the Senate more than two years ago.

During her time in the U.S. House of Representatives, Porter has established a national profile as a minivan-driving mom with a penchant for scolding bankers and schooling them with number-crunching whiteboards. She has been an admired guest of late night comedy shows. Money has flowed to her during campaign season with her newly formed Senate apparatus reporting a haul of $1.3 million since her announcement Tuesday.

“One of the reasons I think Porter announced so early is to claim the front-runner mantel and show how much money she can raise, but everyone who runs for Senate raises a lot of money,” Smith said. “Having barely eked out a win in what should have been a safe district does not make her a very compelling candidate for Senate.”

Reps. Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee, both D-Calif., are rumored to be interested in running with more expected to announce. The coveted seat is all but guaranteed for Democrats and puts any winner in a strong position to hold the seat for numerous elections. 

But questions over the timing of her announcement, and what that means for the success of the campaign, remain. Smith said the announcement also risks drawing the ire for Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who currently holds the seat Porter wants to win. While Feinstein hasn’t announced her retirement yet, it’s widely expected that the 89 year old will not run again.

A potential wild card for Porter and others interested in the seat comes down to Feinstein and whether she continues her term or call it a career early to influence who succeeds her. 

California’s size and population make it a campaigning challenge, as heavily populated Los Angeles County is sometimes insulated from Orange County politics and the manicured parks of Irvine, which Porter calls home. To win, she would need to make up territory in areas of the state she has not had to visit within her capacity as a member of the House. Porter also lacks seniority in the party and has fired shots across the bow of Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the longtime leader of House Democrats and fundraising juggernaut.

Schiff has seniority and has accumulated standing amongst party leadership. He serves as chair of the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was a key player in the Donald Trump impeachment hearings.

Other candidates could still emerge. Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has already been elected to statewide office having served as California Attorney General. Party leaders may prefer a candidate who has proven name recognition and experience winning a statewide race. That was part of what led Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate.

Another question for Porter is her in-state political network.

“Does she know the mayors?” Smith wondered. “Are they going to get out their political machines to get her the primary vote? These are unanswered questions.”

Jimmy Camp, an Orange County political consultant, expects Porter to have a real shot to win.

“It’s not like she’d be running against anyone who has that network, like a Barbara Boxer. I think it’s kind of a level playing field in that sense,” he said.

The campaign launch is a risk for Porter, he said, as she’ll have nowhere to go if she loses and is not an obvious choice for any White House appointments.

“My money would be on Porter,” Camp said. “She’s just so much more likeable than any of the others.”

On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed Porter, her former law student, in her bid for Senate.

“We need her and her whiteboard in the United States Senate,” Warren said in a videotaped message posted on Twitter.