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California Senate: Schiff, Garvey Advance to November Election to Fill Feinstein’s Seat
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By Associated Press
Published 2 months ago on
March 6, 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and former baseball star Steve Garvey will advance to a November election to decide who will fill the U.S. Senate seat held for three decades by the late Dianne Feinstein.

Schiff was followed in unofficial returns by Garvey, a Republican, with Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee farther back.

California puts all candidates, regardless of party, on the same primary ballot, and the two who get the most votes advance to the general election.

Democrats are expected to easily hold the Senate seat in November, a relief for the party as it seeks to defend a narrow majority. But the campaign still represents a new era in California politics, which was long dominated by Feinstein and a handful of other veteran politicians.

Garvey’s candidacy, buoyed by name recognition among older voters in particular, threw an unexpected twist into the race. The dynamic between Schiff and U.S. Rep. Katie Porter grew increasingly tense in the campaign’s closing weeks as both vied for a general election spot.

The first-time candidate Garvey notched his spot on the fall ballot by positioning himself as an outsider running against entrenched Washington insiders who he blamed for rising grocery and gas prices, out-of-reach housing costs, and an unchecked homeless crisis in cities.

He owes a debt of thanks to Schiff and supportive super political action committees, which ran millions of dollars in advertising spotlighting Garvey’s conservative credentials, which indirectly boosted his visibility among Republican and right-leaning voters.

Schiff’s National Profile as Trump’s Antagonist

Schiff gained national attention as a leading antagonist to former President Donald Trump during his years in the White House. He was a leading voice during Trump’s two impeachments, prompting House Republicans to take the extraordinary step of censuring him after they gained control of the chamber.

That only deepened his appeal in the Democratic stronghold of California, helping Schiff become a favorite of the party’s establishment with endorsements from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, most of California’s congressional delegation, and former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

With that high-powered support, Schiff was a fundraising powerhouse, an important advantage in what became a massively expensive primary campaign.

GOP Hasn’t Won a California Senate Race Since 1988

The seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands. Republicans haven’t won a Senate race in California since 1988.

The race is California’s first open U.S. Senate contest since 2016. Even before Feinstein announced in early 2023 she would not seek re-election, many of the state’s ambitious Democrats were eagerly awaiting their shot at the coveted seat.

Garvey’s candidacy, buoyed by name recognition among older voters in particular, threw an unexpected twist into the race. The dynamic between Schiff and Porter grew increasingly tense in the campaign’s closing weeks as both vied for a general election spot.

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, made clear from the start he intended to anchor his candidacy to his role as Trump’s chief foe in Congress. In his campaign kickoff video, he said the “biggest job of his life” was serving as impeachment manager, and he promised to continue to be a “fighter” for democracy.

Porter’s campaign has accused Schiff and his supporters of running ads intentionally spotlighting Garvey to lift the former baseball star’s profile with Republicans, on the premise that having a GOP opponent would presumably be an easier match for Schiff in the fall. Schiff has defended the ads, saying Garvey attacked him in debates and interviews and he was “not going to ignore him.”

Schiff also advanced to the November ballot in the race to fill the remainder of Feinstein’s term, following the general election. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler, a longtime Democratic organizer, to serve out Feinstein’s term, and Butler chose not to seek election to the seat. The winner of the November election would serve a truncated term through early January, when the full, six-year term would begin.

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