Calif. Dems Frustrated With Feinstein

By John King/CNN

WASHINGTON (Jan. 16) -- Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's indecision about whether to run for California governor is frustrating party officials, and many of her own political operatives.

Party sources tell CNN that Feinstein had promised to make a decision by New Year's Day, but has not made up her mind, primarily because she fears Democratic candidate Al Checchi would spend millions of his personal fortune on attack ads.

Advisors say Feinstein is scarred by her narrow 1994 re-election victory, when Republican millionaire Michael Huffington subjected her to months of attack ads financed with his own money.

One advisor told CNN, "She can see it happening again and wants no part of it. She says she wants to run but won't go through that again."

These sources say top Feinstein operatives have appealed to White House aides for help, including a request that President Bill Clinton speak to the senator and urge her to make the race, or at least make up her mind.

Most Democrats view Feinstein as the party's best hope against GOP Attorney General Dan Lungren.

Former Clinton White House chief of staff and California congressman Leon Panetta tells friends he will not run if Feinstein does. But sources tell CNN that Panetta is "waiting in the wings," as one put it, and most of Feinstein's political team is prepared to help Panetta if the senator decides against a run for governor.

One of her advisors said, "The longer she waits the harder it gets to prepare for this race, especially if she doesn't run. We need a decision."

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