1 Dianne Feinstein
CNN  — 

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who announced earlier this week she would seek a fifth full term in 2018, is all but guaranteed to face a serious challenger next year. The question now: who can emerge from a potentially crowded field of ambitious progressives to take on the Democratic establishment favorite?

Kevin de León, the state Senate president, who CNN reported on Thursday intends to enter the race, is the early frontrunner to advance beyond June’s open primary, along with Feinstein, into a one-on-one general election campaign. He was instrumental in moving a statewide single-payer health care bill through the state senate earlier this year and has been in contact with labor leaders and elected officials.

But even as de León prepares to make his move, billionaire Tom Steyer considers his next step and the wealthy activist Joe Sanberg flirts with a run, an unexpected name, though familiar to progressives, could soon join the contest.

The political journalist Ana Kasparian, co-host of The Young Turks online news show, is actively exploring a run, a source with knowledge of her plans tells CNN.

She would likely enter the fray with the support of the Justice Democrats, a grassroots liberal organization launched by Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks video network and Kasparian’s frequent on-air partner.

Kasparian did not respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Democrats were formed around the movement that grew out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Their platform is largely in line with his program, and The Young Turks are broadly supportive of Sanders and the party’s progressive wing.

Contacted on Friday by CNN, Justice Democrats communications director Corbin Trent wouldn’t comment. A day earlier, without naming names, he said the group had planned to “launch another candidate, next week – someone that’s not announced at all yet.”

“When you have a Congress that’s so aggressively anti-woman, you have to do your best to not only maintain the level of representation, but to increase it,” he said on Thursday, explaining one of the reasons the group would be backing a woman. “That’s why (the Justice Democrats’) slate is more than half women. The country is more than half women. And I don’t think you can brush that side.”

Kasparian joined the network as a host and producer a decade ago, according to her bio on the TYT Network website. She has also appeared as a contributor on MSNBC and RT, and taught journalism at California State University Northridge.

Feinstein, 84, announced on Monday she would run again. There had been rumors she was considering retirement. Kasparian, some five decades her junior and a critic of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primary campaign, would seek to take on Feinstein from the left.

The state’s open primary is slated for June 5, 2018. The top two two overall vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the general election in November. Feinstein has a significant power base in California, but she is a political moderate at a time when the Democratic rank-and-file is spoiling for fights with President Donald Trump – and jabbing at each other over the direction of the party – leaving her vulnerable, progressives believe, to being unseated next year.