SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – California voters decisively endorsed long-serving U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday, sending the powerful Democrat back to the nation’s capital for a fourth term.

Feinstein, 79, handily beat Republican neophyte Elizabeth Emken. California’s senior senator was far better known and better financed than Emken, 49, an autism activist who lacked political experience and the fundraising skills to mount a credible challenge.

The popular former San Francisco mayor campaigned on her legislative record over three terms, especially on the economy and national security, as well as her years in government.

Emken presented herself as a reform-minded outsider, but was ultimately unable to overcome the relentless decline of the California Republican Party and her own lack of experience.

A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Danville, Emken remained unknown to most California voters even as she beat 23 other little-known GOP candidates in the June primary.

Feinstein had gathered more than $8.6 million, despite being one of many Democratic candidates and officeholders victimized in an embezzlement scandal involving a former campaign treasurer. In contrast, Emken’s campaign struggled to stay out of the red and had raised roughly $666,000 at the time of the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

Feinstein, known as a centrist dealmaker, remains one of the most popular and well-known politicians in state history. She has promised to reintroduce the federal ban on assault rifles, leverage her seniority to boost the economy partly through offering tax breaks for innovative businesses and use her position as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to halt leaks about sensitive information.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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