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California's Dianne Feinstein forced to miss the Democratic convention

August 19, 2008 | 11:47 am

As the Republican National Convention approaches, keeping track of GOP luminaries who AREN'T attending the festivities has become a popular sport for the political media. For instance, those who haven't booked a flight to Minnesota's Twin Cities include several senators up for re-election this year: Ted Stevens of Alaska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Roberts of Kansas.

For at least a few of those no-shows, the thinking goes, it makes sense downplay their party credentials at a time when the Republican brand name isn't exactly riding high.

Today, a prominent California Democrat announced that she won't be making the trip to her party's confab, which starts Monday in Denver. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein's absence has nothing to do with political calculations (though she was a fervent Hillary Clinton backer).

Instead, Feinstein is hobbled by injury.

In a statement she released, she reports that last Friday, "I slipped and broke my left ankle while I was on a walk with Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (of the Bay Area) on the Meeks Bay Trail in the Tahoe forest."

Her statement continues:

"My doctor has advised me not to travel in the short-term, and so, regretfully, I am unable to attend what will surely be an historic convention in Denver.

"I was very much looking forward to chairing the California Delegation, and I offer my best wishes to California’s delegates in this vital nomination process.”

Perhaps her absence will be a blessing in disguise; she won't have to deflect questions about what has become a ritualistic guessing game in the Golden State -- will she finally make a bid for the office most assume she always has longed for, the governorship?

By the same token, two other Democrats eyeing gubernatorial runs in 2010 -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom -- now will have a clearer field to press their cases among their fellow conventioneers.

Feinstein was in Lake Tahoe to help lead the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, which focuses on the area's environmental issues. She persevered and performed her duties. But her co-host for the event -- the Republican who currently occupies the governor's office, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- had to skip the event because of a lingering knee injury.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press