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Fact-checking claims in California’s U.S. Senate race

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and and State Sen. Kevin de León are running for U.S. Senate in California / Photo by Capital Public Radio Sen. Dianne Feinstein and and State Sen. Kevin de León are running for U.S. Senate in California / Photo by Capital Public Radio

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and and State Sen. Kevin de León are running for U.S. Senate in California / Photo by Capital Public Radio

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols October 18, 2018

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her challenger in California’s U.S. Senate race Kevin de León made several claims that caught our attention during their only scheduled campaign forum this week in San Francisco.

Feinstein, who was first elected to the Senate in 1992, held an 11 point lead over De León, a state senator, in a September poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. The two Democrats emerged from the state’s June primary, in which the top two candidates advance regardless of party affiliation.

During the campaign, De León has argued he’ll bring a new, more progressive voice to Washington D.C. Feinstein, meanwhile, has touted her experience and leadership on topics that range from gun control to women’s rights.

The campaign forum was hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California on Oct. 17, 2018

Here are the claims we fact-checked:

"There is a study that says we can actually secure $2 trillion dollars worth of savings (by implementing Medicare for All) over the course of 10 years. And that has been fact checked 100 times over."

We looked at this claim by De León, who expressed his support for Medicare for All at the event, and found it has been fact-checked — by PolitiFact National — and was rated Half True.

The report De León is referring to, by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, does include one scenario with $2 trillion dollars in savings. The same report, however, offers an alternate figure where the single-payer health plan proposal is not as successful at controlling costs and leads to an increase of more than $3 trillion dollars in health care spending over the same period. Experts say there’s no telling, at this point, which scenario would come to fruition.

"Since Sandy Hook, there have been over 200 school shootings."

Feinstein made this claim as she advocated for more gun control.

PolitiFact California examined this figure in an article in February 2018, after 17 people were killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

We found there’s no legal definition or consensus for how best to define a school shooting. Depending on the criteria, various groups have placed that number at 60, more than 200, or more than 300.

Some counts include incidents where no one is injured, cases where guns are fired unintentionally, as well as suicides – all of which are tragic and can cause harm but are nowhere near the level of the mass shooting Feinstein referenced at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 first graders and six adults were shot and killed in 2012. 

"We have spent more than $6 trillion of American taxpayer dollars."

On national security, De León made this claim about the combined cost of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

PolitiFact National investigated their cost in a 2016 fact check after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made the same claim. It rated it Half True, calling that figure "the high-end estimate of credible analyses." But it also said Trump had confused "money that’s been spent with money that researchers say will be spent."

We found a more recent study by Brown University, from November 2017, that offers some support for De León's statement. It placed the combined cost at $5.6 trillion, saying its tally includes not just bombs and war planes but also long-term medical care for veterans of these wars.

We will continue to monitor claims in California’s U.S. Senate race. Have you read or heard a statement we should fact check? Email us your suggestion at [email protected], or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

Related Coverage from Capital Public Radio: 

Senate Candidates Dianne Feinstein And Kevin De Leon Share The Stage In San Francisco

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Fact-checking claims in California’s U.S. Senate race