Schiff’s tactic may end Porter’s battle

Burbank Democrat’s focus on Garvey to avoid facing her appears to be working.

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Rep. Katie Porter, famed among Democrats for grilling powerful corporate barons and right-wing ideologues testifying before Congress, faces a serious risk of falling short in Tuesday’s California primary election, which would bring an end to her bid to win the late Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat in the fall general election.

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Along with a once-formidable campaign account depleted by her tough 2022 reelection bid and expected low voter turnout, the Irvine congresswoman must overcome the millions of dollars Democratic rival Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and his allies have spent boosting GOP candidate Steve Garvey, the former Dodgers All-Star first baseman.

If Garvey and Schiff win the top two spots in California’s open primary, the two would be the only candidates to advance to the November general election — with Schiff being the heavy favorite because of California’s strong Democratic tilt. Political experts say Schiff’s strategy to prop up Garvey is largely driven by the threat he would face in a one-on-one face-off against Porter in the fall election.

“She would give him a hell of a run in the general election — he would look like the establishment Washington, D.C., insider, and she could have contrasted herself with him,” said GOP strategist Kevin Spillane, who is undecided in the race. “That’s pretty remarkable. Schiff’s working harder to get Garvey in the runoff than Garvey is himself.”

Spillane said he could not recall anyone spending as much to buoy a statewide GOP candidate since then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman in 2010. Ad campaigns portray Garvey as a loyalist of former President Trump and the biggest political threat to Schiff, an effort largely expected to increase Garvey’s appeal among Republican voters.

The strategy is partly driven by California’s top-two primary system approved by voters more than a decade ago, which allows only the two candidates who secure the most votes to advance to the general election, regardless of their political party affiliation.

But this year’s Senate contest — a rare open seat for a Californian in the nation’s top legislative body — is also shaped by the records and personalities of the top Democrats in the race.

Schiff and Porter are both liberal Democrats, prodigious fundraisers and well-known voices among cable news show viewers across the nation, but a contest between them in the general election would be much different from their current primary battle.

Schiff, who was elected to Congress as a moderate in 2000, has won over most of the Democratic establishment’s leadership, starting with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). He is now best known by many voters as the manager of Congress’ first impeachment trial of Trump over foreign interference in the 2020 election and his vocal role in the 2021 House investigation into Trump’s accountability for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Although Porter’s voting record is practically identical to Schiff’s, she has honed a populist patina, blasting corporate leaders during congressional oversight hearings and focusing on issues such as income inequality. The former UC Irvine law professor’s background as a minivan-driving single mother also appeals to moderate voters in her sharply divided suburban Orange County congressional district.

“Part of her persona is that she’s authentic. I think she is trying to connect with normal voters who face the same kitchen table issues she does and talks about as a single mom,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego. “That’s part of her appeal and could lead to her getting moderate support in the general.”

Porter’s positioning — combined with Schiff being among the most prominent anti-Trump faces in the nation — could boost her in a general election contest because she could win anti-Schiff Republican voters, he added.

“I don’t think she has built up a wall against her with Republicans as he has because he’s been such a prominent figure as a leader of the impeachment. That’s helped him [in the primary], but that’s a double-edged sword” in the general election, Kousser said.

But Porter’s prospects of reaching the November ballot are, at best, uncertain. A new poll finds her in third place in the primary, and early ballot returns show a sluggish turnout among the voters most likely to support her, compared with Schiff and Garvey.

Garvey and Schiff are in a statistical tie for the top two spots, according to a poll released Thursday by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and The Times.

Among likely primary voters, Garvey received the backing of 27%, while Schiff won 25%, within the poll’s margin of error. Porter received the support of 19%, and fellow Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland got 8%. Slightly more than 1 in 10 supported other candidates, while 9% said they were undecided.

The mail-in ballots that already have been cast favor Garvey over Porter.

Though there are far more Democratic registered voters in the state than Republicans, GOP voters have cast a greater share of their ballots, 15% compared with 13% of Democrats through Friday, according to a ballot tracker run by PDI, a political data firm that caters to Democratic and nonpartisan candidates.

Paul Mitchell, a veteran Democratic strategist who is the vice president of PDI, expects low voter turnout in the election, reflecting a lack of enthusiasm driven by the reality that President Biden and Trump have all but secured their parties’ nominations for president.

“It’s just an uninteresting national ballot,” he said.

Low turnout would help Garvey, since Republicans appear to have a greater propensity to cast ballots in the primary. Plus, if, as multiple polls suggest, GOP voters have consolidated behind Garvey while Democrats are split among multiple candidates, that alone could be enough to help Garvey win one of the top two spots on Tuesday.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times


  1. Rico Lagattuta says

    Good politicking. If not he, then someone in the Schiff organizations is very good at strategizing!

  2. Pray the annalists is correct….

  3. Carla Virga says

    How can “The mail-in ballots that already have been cast favor Garvey over Porter”? Sutter County elections clerk told us they are not allowed to start counting any ballots until the polls close at 8 p.m. election day.

    • I bet the Sutter County elections clerk didn’t tell you which law prohibits them from start counting the ballots received before 8:00pm on Tuesday. If they can not count the ballots received how can they report the numbers as soon as the polls close on Tuesday? County Registrar of Voters offices open and count the ballots as they are coming in and will announce the number of votes received shortly after 8:00pm on Tuesday. (I know I worked in an elections office).

      I mailed my ballot in last week. Three days later I received an e-mail telling me ” your ballot has been received and be counted.” The ROV offices know who has got the most votes. They can make the statement “The mail-in ballots that already have been cast favor Garvey over Porter” but they didn’t say by how many votes, did they? You will get this info on Tuesday after 8:00pm.

  4. Really??? says


    Schiffyyy ads are amazing. The very things he was guilty of are in his ad’s go figure

  5. I looked at Porter as a possible Garvey alternative. Like many Californians I knew nothing about her. I still know nothing about her and her ads are less than informative. A big waste of campaign ads. I dont think she is qualified to even be the Mayor of a small town.

    • Will Kate Porter still be living in the university subsidized homes set aside for teaching staff at the university? Perhaps, if she does not win, she will go back to teaching?

  6. I wouldn’t vote for lying Schiff if he was the last person standing. He has been in Washington for years why he hasn’t done the things he is saying on his ads he will do if he becomes a Senator? Because he is lying as always.

    Remember, California was a conservative state. Newsom is the 40th Governor in California. Out of those 40 Governors 21 were Republicans, 14 Democrats and the other 5 were Non Partisan!!!

    I hope and pray Californians wake up, vote for Garvey and every Republican is running for office in our beautiful state.

  7. The day before the primary we get this article. Where was this two weeks ago. A day late and a dollar short.

  8. Balloting A-dam Shifty is like voting for a clown car running out of GAS-lighting.
    Déjà vu 2009 Alhambra A.S. Town Hall ‘Obamacare’ peaceful protest . . .
    End the Supermajority! VOTE: Steve Garvey for a more balanced California.

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