Steve Garvey’s ‘Seinfeld’-esque campaign strategy: Do nothing, and hope to succeed

Steve Garvey’s Senate primary campaign was the political version of “Seinfeld”: It was a campaign about nothing that was highly successful.

Don’t expect Garvey’s strategy to change now that the Republican former Los Angeles Dodger star will face Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff in November. Except that now, the Schiff-friendly political action committee that boosted Garvey with $10 million of free advertising in the primary is going to shift gears and try to crush him.

But no apologies from Garvey’s campaign for winning. To use a baseball metaphor — and Garvey loves ’em — the campaign kept the bat on its shoulder and eventually came around to score.

“We campaigned differently and it worked,” Garvey spokesman Matt Shupe told me. “People can criticize the strategy all they want.”

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It is a generous interpretation of the word “campaigned.” 

Garvey spent much of the campaign bubble-wrapped in the candidate protection program. He made few public appearances, doing little of the hand-shaking and selfie-taking that his Democratic rivals did. While they crisscrossed the state in the campaign’s final days, Garvey was as hard to spot on the trail as Melania Trump.

Instead of gripping and grinning with voters, Garvey spent much of the campaign snuggled with conservative media, where he leveraged his baseball fame to become virtually tied with Schiff in the latest vote count. Good luck finding a long list of Republican endorsers on Garvey’s website. Doing that could alienate independent voters and disgruntled Democrats frustrated with the crime, homelessness and housing unaffordability in California. 

Yet it worked, and Garvey is unlikely to change strategy. And neither is the super PAC that supported Schiff in the primary — and helped Garvey win a spot in the November general election. 

The Standing Strong PAC spent $10 million, largely to boost Garvey’s name recognition. It linked him to Donald Trump — who Garvey voted for twice — in the hope of unifying California Republicans behind him and making the 75-year-old first-time office-seeker one of the top two candidates to advance to the general election. With Democrats holding a 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration, Schiff figured that Garvey would be an easier opponent in November than Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who finished third Tuesday. 

Garvey needed the boost. His campaign raised only $2.1 million, half of what fourth-place finisher Rep. Barbara Lee, of Oakland, did and a fraction of the $31 million Schiff received.

Coupled with Republicans overperforming their turnout expectations, according to the latest results, and the electorate being disproportionately older and whiter, Garvey, if you’ll pardon the non-baseball metaphor, hit a triple-bank shot to make it into the general election. 

But now it’s time for a re-rack. And Standing Strong, the pro-Schiff super PAC, is about to focus even more intensely on Garvey. 

It plans to focus on Garvey’s two votes for Trump, who is loathed by two-thirds of California voters. And it will pound him for his hazy plans for what he’d do in office and his lack of accessibility to voters.

“There’s going to be a lot less room to hide for Steve Garvey. He had a chance to coast a little bit” in the primary, Kyle Layman, executive director of the Standing Strong super PAC told me.  “You can’t continue to hide. That is not going to be acceptable to voters.”

Garvey’s Democratic opponents have voting records as long-standing members of the House. He didn’t.

Yet Garvey was so vague or non-committal on most issues during the primary that when I pressed him in January — four months after he launched his run — to be more specific on what he’d do as a U.S. senator, he said “I’m at the beginning of the journey. I’ll have more answers for you in June and more answers for you in August.” 

Or three months after the March 5 primary.  

His campaign website is full of vagaries. His plan to take on crime, which he said is a top priority: “More training, better resources, and effective crime prevention strategies are at the top of my list.” While Schiff has put forth a somewhat flawed housing policy, there’s little mention of California’s housing affordability crisis on Garvey’s site.

While Garvey talked about touring homeless encampments during the primary debates, his plan to address the issue boils down to auditing the money that has been spent so far on homelessness. “From there, we can build a plan that truly makes a difference,” he says on his website.

Garvey is perhaps most specific about his stance on the Middle East, saying he stands with Israel “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Schiff has also been a strong Israel ally, and opposed a cease-fire. On Tuesday, Schiff said he supports a cease-fire in Gaza on the condition of the release of Israeli hostages, a position in lockstep with the Biden administration.

Garvey has bigger challenges. He has only $758,260 cash on hand, a pittance in California. Schiff has $13.7 million. It’s doubtful whether top Republican donors will want to invest heavily in a longshot campaign in deep blue California but on Thursday, a pro-Garvey super PAC was established. 

Its name will surprise no one: “Strike Out Schiff.” 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Steve Garvey has barely campaigned for Senate in California. He’s surging anyway

Former Dodgers All-Star Steve Garvey’s quixotic campaign for the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Dianne Feinstein appears likely to pay off in Tuesday’s California primary. Despite his barely-there strategy — Garvey held few public events and did not pay for a single television ad — polls show the Republican is on the cusp of winning one of the top two spots in the nonpartisan primary and advancing to the general election.

Political experts say Garvey was buoyed by two forces: fame from his nearly two decades playing for the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, including the Dodgers’ 1981 World Series victory, and a multimillion-dollar ad blitz by his opponent, Democratic front-runner Rep. Adam B. Schiff and his allies, that boosted Garvey’s standing among GOP voters.

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Schiff (D-Burbank) benefits if Garvey advances to the November election because of California’s overwhelming Democratic tilt. Garvey faces little chance of winning in a state that hasn’t elected a Republican statewide since 2006. Still, his name on the November ballot could help the GOP if it boosts Republicans in tight congressional races that will be decisive in determining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“He has become a vessel of opportunity for Schiff to avoid a tough November race” against a fellow Democrat, said veteran GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, a former advisor to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Now having said that, it’s also great for Republicans — they are much better off with a Senate candidate in the fall for down-ballot races.”

News that Garvey had been meeting with GOP donors and leaders around the state as he pondered a potential Senate bid leaked out last spring. He took months to officially announce that he was running for the seat, prompting head-scratching among political insiders because of the amount of money that needs to be raised to run a statewide campaign in California, home to some of the most expensive media markets in the nation.

Once Garvey entered the race, he did not mount a traditional campaign. He hasn’t held any big rallies or public meet-and-greets with voters around the state. He spent no money on television ads, never rented a campaign bus and declined to do endorsement interviews with California’s major newspapers, including The Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee.

In the final weekend before election day, the leading Democrats running for the Senate seat barnstormed the state, with Schiff holding seven public events, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland attending four and Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine participating in two. As his Democratic opponents seized the last opportunity to woo voters, Garvey was at home in Palm Desert, visible to the public only through TV ads paid for by Schiff and his supporters.

Garvey’s campaign dismissed the notion that he has not been publicly engaged and that Schiff’s messaging helped the Republican’s candidacy.

He has been reaching out to voters through talk radio and local and conservative media. He was mentioned in those forums 4,920 times in the last month, according to a report by Cision, a media tracking firm. On Friday, Garvey appeared on Fox News, Newsmax, NewsNation and talk radio in Fresno.

“What @AdamSchiff, pundits, and insiders don’t want to admit and will come up with a million excuses to explain away — my campaign has had momentum since I announced — and ONLY because of my 50-year relationship with Californians and that I care about their issues,” Garvey tweeted on Saturday.

Earlier this year, Garvey visited the U.S.-Mexico border, participated in three televised debates and held brief campaign events focused on homelessness in San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

In those settings he was often unable to give specific answers to questions from reporters. As he stood outside a San Diego homeless shelter in January, Garvey was asked about his lack of policy prescriptions for the unhoused, an issue that is front of mind for Californians. “Once we get through the primary, I’ll start a deeper dive into the [issues],” he said.

“I haven’t been at this very long, so you got to give me a little bit of leeway here.”

Garvey’s strategy to date is one that may be seen in a legislative contest, not one that’s typical for a statewide candidate trying to reach nearly 22 million voters.

The last two prominent Republicans who ran for governor and senator in California — Meg Whitman (no longer a member of the GOP) and Carly Fiorina — had sprawling campaigns, at times approaching presidential-level operations. They held meticulously staged events around the state with well-known Republicans such as New Jersey’s then-Gov. Chris Christie and Arizona’s then-Sen. John McCain flying into California to stump for them in 2010.

The state’s voter registration has shifted sharply to the left since then, but even lesser-known Republican candidates have barnstormed the state with attention-grabbing campaign tactics. Businessman John Cox stumped with a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear named Tag and an 8-foot ball of garbage when he ran in the gubernatorial recall election in 2021. Neel Kashkari smashed a wind-up toy train and handed out gas cards to protest high-speed rail during his 2014 run for governor.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Schiff’s tactic may end Porter’s battle

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

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

Schiff, Garvey Surge Ahead In Latest 2024 California U.S. Senate Election Poll

Porter six points behind Garvey in third place, Lee remains a distant fourth

A new Inside California Politics/ Emerson College poll on the 2024 California U.S. Senate Election was released Tuesday, showing that both Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and former Major League baseball star Steve Garvey (R) have continued to grow their respective leads over other top candidates such as Congresswomen Katie Porter (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

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According to the poll, Schiff has stayed in first place with 28% of those polled giving him their support. Garvey remained in second, receiving 22%, followed by Porter who was six points down at 16%. In a distant fourth was Lee with only 9% of the vote. Lawyer Eric Early (R), Businessman James Bradley (R), and TV Anchorwoman Christina Pascucci (D) each had 2% of the vote, rounding out the candidates who had more than 1%. Meanwhile, only 17% of voters remained undecided.

When broken down by demographics, both Schiff and Garvey enjoyed a high percentage of older voters in their favor, while Porter garnered more support from younger voters. Amongst independent voters in California, both Garvey and Schiff were split, with Garvey garnered 23% support from independents while Schiff had 22%.

“Candidate support varies by age group,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling. “Schiff’s support is highest among voters in their 60s, at 45%, and those over 70, with 39%, whereas Porter’s strength is among young voters, where she holds 23%. Notably, this group has the highest share of undecided voters at 28%. Garvey’s strength is also with older voters, with 33% support among voters over 70.”

When compared to the two previous polls in January, the previous Emerson poll and the USC Dornsife poll, Schiff has seen a trend of growing support. The January Emerson poll showed him at 25%, with the USC poll at 26%, and the February Emerson poll at 28%, marking a three point climb in only a month. Garvey, meanwhile went from an 18% January Emerson showing, to a 15% USC figure, then back up to a 22% with Emerson this month.

In Comparison, Porter had a 13%-15%-16% string of small gains, matching Schiff’s overall 3 point gain in a month, but coming short of Garvey’s 4 point gain. Lee meanwhile, made small gains, going from 8% to 7% to 9% on Tuesday. Bradley, Early, and Pascucci, meanwhile, all stagnated at around 2%.

Schiff, Garvey speed ahead of Porter, Lee

“This poll spells good news for Schiff, great news for Garvey, and just the worst possible news for Porter,” added Stephanie Lewis, a pollster in Southern California, to the Globe on Tuesday. “Schiff’s ads, first debate performance, and generally not rocking the boat in terms of negative headlines during the campaign have led him to maintain and slowly build. He’s getting many older Democrats to go away from Lee and Porter, and has pushed those on the fence to decide between him and Garvey. There’s people saying that some of his ads are charged and is trying to remove Porter because he would rather face Garvey in November, but he’s just been going after the independents and undecideds and wants to consolidate Democrats now.”

“If you’re a Garvey supporter, then this poll is great news. A six point lead over Porter with only 17% undecided, with Garvey grabbing the most independents. Plus he has outpaced support growth over all other candidates, as he went up 4 points since last month, and Schiff and Porter only went up 3. You can also track his debate performances from the polls. As he was doing decently before the first debate, dipped after his poor performance in the first, then won many people back in the second. It is helping that the Democrats are split, but it’s also helping the Porter just cannot break through.”

“Speaking of Porter, she is somewhat keeping pace, but she needed to have done more than that by now. Porter is good for the snappy headline and getting younger voters who see Lee as too old and too left, Schiff as too centrist, and Garvey as too conservative. But younger voters tend not to vote much as older voters, especially in primaries and especially in a primary election where Biden is the only real candidate for the Dems. And she is growing frustrated. She’s putting out a ton of ads, only for Schiff and Garvey to keep outpacing her. She gave up her House seat for this and was expecting to face Schiff in November. If she loses in the primary, well, that is hard to come back from.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Porter defends ad highlighting little-known GOP rival in Senate race

Rep. Katie Porter, who accused her main Democratic rival in the Senate race of cynicism for attempting to prop up a Republican in the contest, is now doing the same.

The Irvine congresswoman, who is battling with Republican former baseball player Steve Garvey to come in second place in the March 5 primary, is running digital ads touting the conservative credentials of one of Garvey’s GOP rivals.

The Facebook ads argue that Eric Early, an attorney and perennial candidate who polls in the low single digits in the Senate contest, is the true conservative in the race.

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“Who’s the real Republican threat in the California Senate race? MAGA Republican Eric Early proudly stands with Donald Trump, while Steve Garvey refuses to tell us who he supports. Garvey claimed he might even vote for Joe Biden. Get the facts,” the Facebook post says.

Though the ad ostensibly criticizes Early, it is similar to other recent Democratic efforts to boost a Republican’s standing in an election, a byproduct of the state’s open primary system. The top two vote-getters in March move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. While Democrats dominate California voter rolls, if Republicans consolidate behind one candidate in a crowded field, he or she could win one of those two spots.

If Porter’s ad increases support for Early among GOP voters, that would eat into Garvey’s support, possibly allowing Porter to win the second spot.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) appears assured to win the top spot in the primary based on polling. His campaign as well as a super PAC backing his bid are spending millions of dollars running television ads highlighting Garvey.

“Two leading candidates for Senate. Two very different visions for California,” a narrator intones in a Schiff campaign ad, noting later that Garvey “is too conservative for California” and voted for former President Trump twice.

At the time, Porter denounced the effort as a political ploy.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Garvey’s Kids Speak Their Mind

Steve Garvey touts ‘family values’ in his Senate bid. Some of his kids tell another story

The nickname “Mr. Clean” has lingered since the height of Steve Garvey’s fame as a sweet-swinging first baseman for the Dodgers and Padres, as much a reflection of his success on the field as the wholesome, All-American image that followed him off of it.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Charming. Handsome. Unfailingly polite. Eager to sign autographs. Devoted to helping charities. A media darling. A successful businessman. All with a made-for-television grin.

Garvey is “a devoted family man,” read a biography once posted on his website. “As a father of seven children, Garvey understands that in the ever-changing world we live in there is a great necessity of being a man of honor, integrity and quality.”

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Now, as the Republican front-runner in the race for a California U.S. Senate seat, Garvey has avoided detailed policy positions, instead relying on his name recognition and clean-cut image. His campaign website describes him as a “true role model,” he praised the party’s value of “personal responsibility” in a recent interview, and he called in an op-ed to “restore moral integrity in Congress.”

But the reality of Garvey’s life is more complex. The 75-year-old has struggled with debt, been repeatedly sued, faced a bitter divorce, and got two women pregnant before quickly marrying a third woman, his current wife, in a scandal that briefly made him a national punchline in 1989. He pledged in interviews at the time to take “moral and financial responsibility” for the children.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the two children involved in the paternity imbroglio, now adults, told The Times that their mothers repeatedly tried to arrange meetings and phone calls for the children with Garvey, but he declined to communicate.

Also speaking publicly for the first time, Garvey’s oldest child from his first marriage said he cut off almost all contact without explanation about 15 years ago in a move that she still finds painful.

Krisha Garvey, 49, said she is not active in politics but agreed to speak to The Times about what she characterized as “complete abandonment” of herself and her three children by her father because she felt it was important for voters to understand that her father’s public image hasn’t always reflected his personal life.

“There’s something lacking in him, something not authentic,” she said. “To be a man of the people, to truly have experience of being a totally complete, loving family man … I wouldn’t want the people of California to buy into that just because he hit a ball really well.”

Now both 34, the two children Steve Garvey had with the two different women in 1989 said in a joint statement that they have no partisan or ideological position on the Senate race. They have moved forward with their lives without the father they’ve never known.

“In our childhoods, multiple efforts were made through attorneys to arrange a meeting or even a phone call with Mr. Garvey, but he declined every opportunity,” Slade Mendenhall and Ashleigh Young wrote. “Thus, we have never known him, and our only relationships with him were through the family court system.”

Young told The Times the only time she has spoken with Garvey was a chance encounter in line at a Park City, Utah, ski lodge shop when she was in middle school that was “very brief and a bit awkward.” Mendenhall said he has never met or spoken with Garvey.

Garvey’s campaign did not respond to detailed questions from The Times about his children, his financial dealings and whether his public image has matched his private conduct, but instead released a statement.

“The challenges I faced after retiring from Major League Baseball four decades ago were pivotal in shaping the person I am today,” the statement said. “The lessons learned about personal accountability and integrity have made a profound, lasting impact on my life. I’m the luckiest man to be happily married to the love of my life, Candace, for the last 35 years, which I believe demonstrates my growth and commitment to family values. These experiences have equipped me to better understand the adversities others face in their lives, and to serve the public with empathy and integrity, something that has been lacking in Washington, D.C.”

After a quiet start in his first run for public office, Garvey, a Palm Desert resident, has hit the campaign trail. Stops in recent weeks included California’s border with Mexico, the Salton Sea, an almond company in Kern County, a Compton bakery, a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, a homeless encampment in Sacramento, and meeting with Jewish community leaders in Pleasanton.

Garvey’s campaign did not respond to detailed questions from The Times about his children, his financial dealings and whether his public image has matched his private conduct, but instead released a statement.

“The challenges I faced after retiring from Major League Baseball four decades ago were pivotal in shaping the person I am today,” the statement said. “The lessons learned about personal accountability and integrity have made a profound, lasting impact on my life. I’m the luckiest man to be happily married to the love of my life, Candace, for the last 35 years, which I believe demonstrates my growth and commitment to family values. These experiences have equipped me to better understand the adversities others face in their lives, and to serve the public with empathy and integrity, something that has been lacking in Washington, D.C.”

After a quiet start in his first run for public office, Garvey, a Palm Desert resident, has hit the campaign trail. Stops in recent weeks included California’s border with Mexico, the Salton Sea, an almond company in Kern County, a Compton bakery, a tour of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, a homeless encampment in Sacramento, and meeting with Jewish community leaders in Pleasanton.

Garvey’s strength, the professor said, boils down to his name recognition with members of a “certain generation” who remember Garvey’s exploits with the Dodgers and Padres in the 1970s and 1980s.

The one-time Dodgers batboy was selected for 10 All-Star games, won a Most Valuable Player award, set a National League record by playing in 1,207 consecutive games, earned four Gold Gloves for his defense and helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1981. He was as dependable as bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 110 Freeway that runs near Dodger Stadium, collecting 200 or more hits in a season six times and ranking among the games-played leaders in 10 seasons. The faithful who packed stadiums to watch him play loved the clean-cut, aw-shucks, God-fearing superstar.

“He collects art, not phone numbers,” legendary Times columnist Jim Murray wrote in 1974. “He’s on the team bus more than the driver. His idea of a good movie is one where everyone keeps his clothes on and the good guys win. He visits crippled children’s hospitals, not discotheques. … Garvey is hopelessly addicted to malted milk and getting to bed early.”

He was as smooth in front of television cameras and microphones as he was scooping up ground balls to first base. He appeared on game shows, sitcoms, talk shows, even the cover of Sport magazine eating apple pie festooned with American flags. Companies flocked to use him as a pitchman for products like Vitalis Hair Tonic and Swanson Hungry-Man frozen dinners. A junior high school in Tulare County was named after him. Garvey and his then-wife Cynthia — he filed for divorce in 1983 — were called Ken and Barbie in newspaper stories that cast them as a Southern California ideal.

“He was the face of the franchise save for [Dodgers manager] Tommy Lasorda, as much as any player had been maybe since they came over from Brooklyn,” said Jason Turbow, whose book “They Bled Blue” chronicles the team’s path to the championship in 1981. “In many ways, he was the Dodgers.”

The adulation reached such heights that in an interview with Playboy magazine in 1981, Garvey said he had been “approached by very high-profile” Republicans and Democrats about running for office and “either I start at the U.S. Senate or nothing.” He hoped to “develop ideas and principles that will set examples for people.” If a political career materialized, Garvey told the interviewer, he would consider trying for president because “I know if I were elected to that position, it would be nothing short of my complete, total dedication.”

But the attention sometimes grated on other players.

“Some of his teammates thought the Garvey persona was too neat, his near-immaculate lifestyle too perfect, and that what they were witnessing in his daily embraces with the media, in his publicized visits to semi-invalids in hospitals and in his marathon autograph and photo sessions was nothing more than image making,” Sports Illustrated’s William Nack wrote in 1982. “What they believed they saw was a cynically calculated polishing of the … image for personal gain — a businessman, blasphemy of blasphemies, in [legendary Dodgers player] Gil Hodges’ uniform.”

In an autobiography released in 1986, Garvey insisted the virtuous image was the real thing: “All that autograph-signing and hand-shaking and cheek-kissing, that’s how I am and have always been. … Some guys can’t be bothered, but when I look into those little faces, I can’t say no. I remember when I was a kid and ballplayers had time for me — it made me happy.” He talked about the need for positive role models and that there should be “at least one straight arrow among the swingers.”

But in early 1989, less than two years after his final game with the Padres, Garvey was accused of getting two women pregnant — including one he was engaged to — before marrying a third woman, his current wife, after a brief courtship. He tried to explain what happened in a series of interviews. Both women, he said, led him to believe they were using birth control.

Bumper stickers proclaimed: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.”

During a “Golden Girls” episode that spring, the character Sophia Petrillo quipped: “I just hope I’m not carrying Steve Garvey’s baby.”

The Times described the situation in a headline as an “accidental double play” and assured readers that Garvey’s long-discussed political prospects remained intact. He promised in the same story to “accept the moral and financial responsibility” for the children because “there is a right way and wrong way to deal with moral situations, and I believe this is the right thing to do.”

But in early 1989, less than two years after his final game with the Padres, Garvey was accused of getting two women pregnant — including one he was engaged to — before marrying a third woman, his current wife, after a brief courtship. He tried to explain what happened in a series of interviews. Both women, he said, led him to believe they were using birth control.

Bumper stickers proclaimed: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.”

During a “Golden Girls” episode that spring, the character Sophia Petrillo quipped: “I just hope I’m not carrying Steve Garvey’s baby.”

The Times described the situation in a headline as an “accidental double play” and assured readers that Garvey’s long-discussed political prospects remained intact. He promised in the same story to “accept the moral and financial responsibility” for the children because “there is a right way and wrong way to deal with moral situations, and I believe this is the right thing to do.”

Among his other endeavors, Garvey offers to film personalized videos for fans on Cameo for $149.

“Once I started doing this, it’s been amazing, the amount of well wishes and satisfaction that I’ve had in doing something special for the fans,” Garvey said in a promotional video. “We’ve just had a great Mother’s Day run and the videos that came back of crying and laughing, it was so heartwarming.”

Amid pitches for Cameos and other products, Garvey’s Instagram feed portrays a family man. Garvey posing for a family photo on Christmas. His youngest daughter preparing to attend the Stagecoach Festival. On the Dodger Stadium field with her: “Special #Dad #Daughter night at the #2022 All-Star Game.” At the Kentucky Derby the same year with his wife. The caption read: “One more memorable event to our life experiences.”

(Garvey had two children with his first wife, two children with two different women in 1989, and three children with his current wife, in addition to two children she brought into their marriage.)

Garvey’s oldest daughter, Krisha, fondly recalls childhood memories of her father, including him still wearing his Dodgers uniform when he would jump in the pool at the family home in Calabasas with her and her younger sister, Whitney. (Whitney Garvey could not be reached for comment.) Krisha said she is athletic and competitive like her dad, an avid tennis player who remembers his coaching when she was young. His words echo in her mind every time she steps on the court: “Happy feet, happy feet.”

Steve Garvey dedicated his autobiography published in 1986 to Krisha and Whitney and, as part of the dedication for another book in 2008, mentioned “my children” and Krisha’s oldest son.

About 15 years ago, she said, her father stopped calling and taking her calls. It shocked her. She didn’t understand what had happened. One day, she said, she caught him on the phone. He told her “this is how it’s got to be, Krish” but otherwise did not explain the estrangement, she said. The little communication between them largely consisted of brief texts, emails, and phone calls she initiated, according to Krisha.

The hurt and confusion, she said, has left her crying “like a little girl” on almost every one of her birthdays in the past decade and a half.

She said it was “shameful” that her father hasn’t tried to have a relationship with her three sons — his grandsons. In an email sent to him in March 2011 and shared with The Times, she attached a photo of one of her sons playing tee-ball and wrote, “Dad, I still don’t know how you sleep at night. You’ve lost so much you won’t ever get back.”

His absence, she said, has motivated her to turn her “boys into men who are accountable.”

“He has not been accountable, not to his family,” she said.

Among the handful of interactions with her father since the severing of the relationship was a call from him in September to let her know about his Senate campaign. Krisha recalled that he asked how her life was going and said he would probably run, but would keep his family out of it. Those isolated conversations have felt “cold,” she said, like a “sensitivity chip” was missing and he was going through the motions with little or no feeling.

Krisha, an esthetician and artist who co-owns an apparel shop in West L.A., said she believes that a politician “needs to have dignity, to be grounded” and she wonders about his character.

“I think my dad is very simplistic. He can tell you a good stupid dad joke and keep it very superficial and very light,” she said. “He can talk around a thing really well, and he can sell a thing. What’s underneath all that though? It’s questionable.”

Told of the personalized video messages her father sells for $149, Krisha teared up.

“He doesn’t acknowledge his [eldest] daughter, her birth, that’s upside down wrong,” she said.

Mendenhall and Young, the two adult children who said they have never known Garvey, emphasized in their statement to The Times that their other relatives taught them the value of family and they “never wanted for love.” Their mothers introduced the half-siblings when they were 3 years old and they remain close. Mendenhall is a lawyer in Georgia; Young is a stay-at-home mother in Japan.

“Now,” they said in the statement, “as adults looking back as well as forward to the next generation of our family, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, we are ever more committed to being present for the ones we love, for every ballgame, every dance recital, every birthday, and every Christmas. We know that so much of life begins with simply showing up, and we would not miss a second of it — not for the world.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Susan Shelley: The seen and the unseen of California’s Senate debate

If there was a Museum of Horrifying Political Mistakes, California’s top-two primary would have its own wing. Possibly its own building.

 (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The top-two primary was created by an initiative, Proposition 14, approved by voters in 2010. The idea was to eliminate political party primaries, have all the candidates on the same primary ballot, allow voters to choose any candidate from any party regardless of their own party registration, and send the top two vote-getters to the November ballot.

So that’s what we’ve got, except for presidential races, which are still party primaries.

The oddities of the top-two primary were on display in last Monday’s debate between four of the 29 candidates who are seeking the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Three of the candidates who stepped onto the debate stage at USC are Democratic members of Congress, all of them abandoning their House seats to run for a six-year term in the Senate. At the end of this election cycle, if not sooner, at least two of them will be looking for work.

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The fourth candidate on the stage was Southern California baseball legend Steve Garvey, the 10-time All-Star first baseman who famously played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.

He may not be popular with Giants fans, but San Francisco would never vote for a Republican anyway.

Yes, Garvey says he’s a Republican, though he seems a little unsure about it. When debate moderator Elex Michaelson asked him, “Is there anything that you disagree with your party on in the Senate?” Garvey answered, “Just about everything.”

“Just about everything?” Michaelson asked.

“No,” Garvey said.

Artfully done. That answer deserves its own display case in the top-two primary wing of the museum.

You see, there are not nearly enough registered Republican voters in the state of California to elect a Republican to a statewide office. Therefore, a Republican candidate has to win some support from non-Republican voters. Garvey rushed to distance himself from the Republican party and then backed off quickly as if he was only joking, before Republican voters had time to be insulted. Speed is everything.

Now let’s move on to the next exhibit. In this display case, we see the three Democratic candidates for Senate sniping at each other like jealous middle-school students while being careful not to lay a glove on Garvey. He’s barely grazed by a few gentle zingers, nothing like the knockout punch to the face that professional fighters in this weight class can deliver.

What’s that about?

That’s about Steve Garvey’s endorsement.

Even though there are not enough registered Republican voters in California to elect a candidate to statewide office, there’s a pretty reliable 35% who would vote for a pickled herring if it had an R next to its name. A majority of California voters would vote for a pickled herring with a D next to its name, but what happens if they have to choose between two Democrats who finish first and second in the primary? The endorsement of the third- and fourth-place finishers might determine which fish becomes the next U.S. senator from California.

“You were a hell of a ballplayer,” front-running Democrat Adam Schiff told Garvey during the debate, the first truthful thing he has said in eight years. We may need another display case.

If not for the museum-quality, horrifying political mistake of the top-two primary, we would still have party primaries for Senate, Congress, state Senate and Assembly. Democrats would run against Democrats and Republicans would run against Republicans. One candidate would emerge from each party primary and move on to November along with any candidates nominated by other political parties.

Instead, we have a nauseating level of Machiavellian intrigue. A candidate, or allies of the candidate, can buy advertising to promote the candidacy of a very weak rival in the hope of knocking a stronger one out of the top two. Then as soon as the primary is over, the advertising stops. Voters who fell for it are left wondering why their sinking candidate isn’t running any TV ads during the general election campaign.

The next exhibit in the museum shows media polls during their transformation into self-fulfilling prophecies. Please stand back, stay behind the ropes. If you’re within the margin of error, no one knows what might happen.

With 29 candidates in the U.S. Senate race, it’s obviously necessary for editors, reporters and debate organizers to make decisions about which candidates will get coverage, air time and invitations. Then publicity drives up poll numbers.

“The following candidates have received the most media attention,” wrote Ballotpedia’s election analysts, citing CalMatters and the Los Angeles Times, “Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Steve Garvey.”  Those are the four that were invited to Monday’s debate, after a poll.

Missing the cut and not happy about it were Republican Eric Early and self-described “Independent Democrat” Christina Pascucci.

“If I were on the debate stage, I would not have stood by as Schiff lied about Russian collusion and how packing the Supreme Court will protect democracy, as Katie Porter blathered the same canards about not being controlled by big money, as Barbara Lee bragged about policies which have turned her home of Oakland into a war zone, and as the Joe Biden Republican Steve Garvey, well, Steve Garvey will let you know,” Early wrote in an op-ed published in these pages.

He’s right.

“That was so frustrating to watch,” Pascucci said in a statement, “You have the three Democratic establishment candidates who are pointing the finger at Washington — they ARE Washington.”

She’s right, too.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Republican Steve Garvey won’t win California’s Senate race, so why is he running?

Steve Garvey is not going to be the next U.S. senator from California. 

He might do well in the upcoming March primary – and with some luck, the Republican candidate could even finish in first place in a field crowded with capable Democrats. But, to put that in terms the former Los Angeles Dodger and San Diego Padres first baseman might understand, that would be like winning his division, only to go on to face certain defeat in the playoffs.


That makes Garvey’s candidacy a puzzle, but it’s a mistake to see it as a serious attempt to win office. The last time Californians sent a Republican to the Senate was in 1988, when Pete Wilson won re-election only to then vacate his seat and become the state’s governor. 

In the intervening decades, California adopted a top-two system for its statewide elections, which can dramatically affect campaign strategies. That means two candidates – irrespective of party – will emerge from the primary and compete in a runoff in November to succeed Laphonza Butler, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s replacement after Sen. Dianne Feinstein died in September. Soon after her appointment, Butler declared that she would not run for a full term, opening up the campaign to a host of contenders.

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Three Democrats command the field. By every measure, the frontrunner is U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the soft-spoken, temperamentally moderate, ideologically liberal former prosecutor perhaps best known for his work in pressing the first impeachment case against then-President Donald Trump. Schiff has raised the most money of any candidate in the race, and he leads in the polls

Schiff had long been clear about his hopes to succeed Feinstein, so his place in the campaign is expected. Less expected were the candidacies of two other credible Democrats, Reps. Barbara Lee and Katie Porter. Both are serious, well-regarded liberals – the former representing Oakland the latter Orange County. Porter jumped into the race a year ago, before Feinstein announced her plans to retire. Lee disclosed her intentions a few days later

That’s been the challenge: Lee hurts Porter, and Porter hurts Lee. Two progressive women are competing for the votes to Schiff’s left, and there just aren’t that many votes there to fight for.

One recent poll showed Schiff ahead, supported by about 21% of those surveyed, with Porter and Garvey fighting for second place and Lee trailing. 

So maybe Garvey surges over the next few weeks. Maybe the state’s Republicans rally around him – though it’s hard to see why – and push him past Porter or even past Schiff. Let’s say he lands in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot for the runoff. What then?

Does anyone really think that Lee or Porter supporters would transfer their loyalties to a Republican, retired ballplayer – much less one who confronted a marital breakdown and paternity scandal that spawned the infamous T-shirt emblazoned “Steve Garvey is not my padre.” 

The result is that Garvey’s candidacy creates froth but does not alter the fundamentals. As people hear he’s a Republican and in the race, he jumps up in the polls because he gives conservatives someone to back, and California has enough Republicans that it moves the needle on surveys and generates “shake-up” headlines.

That has real implications for Lee and Porter, but no real possibility of changing the political outcome in November. Indeed, the biggest beneficiary of all of this is Schiff, who may get the chance to face a Republican in November rather than a potentially wildfire-catching Democrat.

Garvey, those close to Schiff say, is their gift from heaven.

The other clear indicator that Garvey is not really in this race to win is the way his campaign has approached it. His website extols his history as a ballplayer and businessman, “making him a true role model for those aspiring to leadership and success.” 

He bravely takes stands against homelessness and “out-of-control inflation,” and he promises to “enforce our laws” and “invest in modernizing our military.” But he makes no effort to explain how he would address any of these problems. He has rationed interviews, confining himself to bland statements distancing himself from Trump, and limited his public appearances. 

He is dodging attention instead of courting it. It almost goes without saying that his campaign did not return repeated interview requests for this column.

What that amounts to is that Garvey is running a campaign of vanity and self-regard. It may make sense as a matter of self-promotion, a way to raise his profile or get some airtime on Fox News. But it’s not a genuine attempt to engage issues and offer solutions that might actually help Californians.

Click here to read the full article in the Desert Sun

Steve Garvey isn’t swinging at much in California Senate race

For a guy who had 2,599 hits in his two-decade baseball career, Steve Garvey — as a Republican U.S. Senate candidate — is not going to take a lot of swings. 

Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

Not at his opponents. Not at detailed policy proposals. And not even at a second term. The 75-year-old Palm Springs resident told me Thursday that he will serve one six-year term if elected. And, no, he’s not concerned that power in the Senate is all about seniority. He’s banking on his personal brand of celebrity to be able reach consensus with others.

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“If I can’t do what I can do personally in six years, then I’ll pass the baton to somebody else,” Garvey said. “This could be the legacy of my life, the ability to represent the people of the state that I love so much.”

So don’t expect many specifics when Garvey and the three leading Democrats, Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff square off at 6 p.m. Monday in Los Angeles for a statewide televised debate. 

Instead, as Garvey said during a campaign stop in Pleasanton, his goal is to “show humanity.” 

“I’m at the beginning of the journey,” Garvey said. “I’ll have more answers for you in June and more answers for you in August.”

But people are going to start voting next month for the March 5 primary. 

“Well, you’ll see what happens in March,” Garvey said. 

What the polls are increasingly showing is that Garvey, who has never sought elective office, could have a shot at being one of the top two finalists to advance to the November top-two general election. He is pulling 18% of the vote, according to an Emerson College Polling/Inside California Politics survey out Thursday, trailing only Schiff with 25%. Porter has 13% and Lee 8% in that poll. A Berkeley IGS survey released this month showed Garvey in third place with 13%, trailing Porter with 17% and Schiff with 21%.

If he can consolidate the 24% of registered California Republicans behind him, Garvey has a decent shot of making the cut as Democrats split their votes.

So look for Lee and Porter to come out swinging Monday. Garvey promises he won’t return fire. Nor would he explain why he is a better candidate than fellow Republican Eric Early, a Los Angeles attorney.

Garvey is all about playing the happy warrior, much like his old friend, Ronald Reagan — whom he introduced at a San Diego campaign rally in 1984.

A happy warrior without a 10-point plan. Or even a three-point plan in some cases. What he’s about, as he stressed several times in our chat, is that he’s open and willing to talk and listen to anyone. Even if he doesn’t have a lot to offer in return beyond surface-level ideas. 

“Maybe what I’ll be able to establish right from the beginning (of the debate) is civility. I think the people of California are so inundated with the snarkiness among politicians, that I think that maybe I might be refreshing in that I am who I am,” Garvey said. “It’s important for me to have to be able to look into the camera, and tell Californians what I believe.”

Garvey, like many first-time politicians who run because they’re frustrated with the system, is an expert in explaining in anecdotal terms what he believes is wrong.

But as for specifics about what he’d do differently? Not so much.

Take housing affordability, a top problem for many Californians. What would Sen. Garvey think the federal government’s role should be in helping more people buy a home? .

“Now there’s such a rush to make decisions, a rush to throw money at whatever it may be,” he said. “I think sometimes we’ve got to step back and we have to look at the broader picture of where society is now. And then to be able to determine, is probably a federal, state and local influence on housing.” 

Right now that broader picture is that 16% of Californians could afford to buy the $830,620 median priced home last year, according to the California Association of Realtors.

So back to the federal government’s role. 

“I think it starts with the economy, affordability and free-market capitalism. I always say, reach for the moon and if you fall short, you’ll be a star. But you’re probably going to gain the ability to improve the quality of your life,” he said. 

So, then, no role for the federal government? 

“Not the primary role,” he said. That is best left to “the state and local decision-making process, the ability to open up areas to develop in. It gets back to deregulation and opening up areas caught up in red tape.”

Garvey was more definitive, in a way, on immigration policy. His solution: close the southern border and “take a step back.” As in close it without any incoming immigration. Then figure out how to get back to a manageable level.

As for the 11 million undocumented people who are living in the U.S., Garvey wants to “reprocess” them, sift out criminals, and then put them on the “process” — a word he used instead of “pathway”— to citizenship. He thought former President Donald Trump’s proposal to mass-deport undocumented citizens to be “too costly” and impractical. Again, not a lot of details about what he’d do.

As for Trump, Garvey isn’t going near that minefield for a candidate running a state where Trump is loathed by two-thirds of voters. Asked twice by reporters Thursday about whether he’d accept an endorsement from Trump, Garvey declined to answer.

“I’m more concerned about the single most difficult race in America right now for a conservative moderate like myself,” Garvey said. “I don’t have time to worry about it.”

So what’s a “conservative moderate”? Think former California Gov. Pete Wilson. 

“He and I are very, very, very similar,” Garvey told me. 

That analogy will endear Garvey to some Republicans and give others agita. Wilson campaigned for reelection in 1994 on the back of Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant ballot measure that sought to deny health care and education to undocumented immigrants.  While 60% of Californians approved it, a federal court deemed it unconstitutional. The ensuing backlash from Latino voters killed the Republican Party, as they left the GOP in droves. For years afterward, Wilson’s Prop. 187 commercial — with its ominous signature line, “They keep coming” — was played to jeers at Latino get-out-the-vote rallies.

On climate change, Garvey veers more to the right. He believes it’s real. He objects to the “rush to judgment” to address the problem. Like California’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars starting in 2035. Or as Garvey mischaracterized it, “when you tell people that in 10 years you all have to drive electric vehicles.”

Reality check: The sale of what regulators called the “cleanest-possible plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles” — meaning cars that still run in part on gas — would still be permitted after 2035. Older gasoline-powered cars would still be allowed on the road after 2035, and people could sell them on the used-car market.

“What are they going to do to you if you still have a gas vehicle then?” Garvey said. “They’re going to tax you to death for it.” 

We made it through nearly our entire chat without Garvey making a hacky baseball analogy, as he has throughout his campaign — and as I did at the start of this column. (“He told me to keep it down” around me, Garvey said, pointing to his media spokesman.)

But he saved one for the end. It goes, inadvertently, to how Democrats shouldn’t sleep on Garvey. 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Schiff takes a narrow lead in U.S. Senate race

Rep. Porter, former Dodger Garvey are in a tight contest to also advance to general election, poll shows.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaking during the House select committee hearing on the January 6th attack on the Capitol, July 27th, 2021 JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AP

The fight for second place in California’s U.S. Senate race between Rep. Katie Porter and former Dodgers star Steve Garvey appears volatile as the March 5 primary approaches, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times.

Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank leads the field by 4 percentage points in a race that thus far has lacked much sizzle, though that could change now that the candidates have launched political ad campaigns and are set to clash in a trio of televised debates over the next two months.

According to the survey, Porter (D-Irvine) trails slightly behind Schiff and holds a narrow lead for second place over Garvey, the top Republican in the race.

Schiff is backed by 21% of likely voters, compared with 17% supporting Porter and 13% for Garvey. Schiff and Porter were essentially tied in Berkeley’s poll in October.

The other top Democrat in the race, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, was supported by 9% of likely voters, the poll found. About a fifth of the voters surveyed picked one of the 23 other candidates on the crowded ballot, and the remainder said they were undecided

The top two vote-getters, regardless of party and share of the vote, will compete against each other in November. Given the Democrats’ huge registration advantage in the state, if Garvey advanced to the general election he’d be at a sizable disadvantage.

The poll also showed how divisions among voters over the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza are having an effect on the contest.

Voters will be asked to vote on two separate Senate elections on the March ballot — one for the full six-year Senate term starting in January and the other for the remaining months of the term of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

In that second race, only seven candidates are listed, and the poll found tighter margins. Schiff still leads among likely voters with 21% support. Porter has 18%, Garvey has 17%, Lee has 12% and Republican Eric Early has 11%.

The contrast between the two races shows that when the number of candidates — particularly Republicans— consolidates, Garvey’s support grows, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies poll and a longtime California pollster.

That offers evidence that Garvey has the opportunity to finish in the top two in the March primary and qualify for the November general election, rather than having two Democrats meeting in the fall, DiCamillo said.

“The open question really is who’s going to be second, and our poll is showing Katie Porter still ahead of Garvey, although there has been movement toward Garvey in each of our polls,” he said.

“There’s an opportunity for him to coalesce the Republican votes to come his way, certainly. I think the debate will help in that regard.”

Garvey’s support has nearly doubled since Berkeley’s poll in August, while Porter’s numbers have remained about the same.

The poll found that of the four top candidates, Schiff was the only one whom a majority of likely voters knew enough about to have an impression. Schiff, a ubiquitous guest on cable news shows, captured the national spotlight when he led the first impeachment trial of then-President Trump.

About 43% of likely voters had a favorable view and 31% an unfavorable view of Schiff. He’s popular among Democrats (67% have a favorable view) and unpopular among Republicans (68% have an unfavorable view).

Porter is less well known but still popular, with 39% of likely voters saying they had a favorable impression of her. Just 16% said they had an unfavorable impression of her. The rest had no opinion.

Garvey, who officially entered the race in October, wants to leverage his fame among older sports fans. The 74-year-old played for the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, but he hasn’t taken the field since the 1980s. He’s viewed favorably among 24% of likely voters and unfavorably by 21%. The rest had no opinion of him.

Schiff’s small lead is fueled in part by his ability over the last few months to increase his backing in voter-rich Los Angeles County. In the October poll, Porter led by 4 percentage points on Schiff’s turf (22%-18%); now he is up by the same margin in the county (23%-19%). Schiff also leads by large margins in the Bay Area, Central Valley and Sacramento regions.

Porter is up by 12 percentage points (24%-12%) at home in Orange County, while the two are essentially tied in the Inland Empire and the San Diego region.

The most potent political issue of the moment — the Israel-Hamas war— shows the very different coalitions backing each of the major candidates. Schiff has been a vocal backer of Israel and President Biden’s strategy in the region. Both Schiff and Garvey say that the United States should continue military aid to Israel.

Both Lee and Porter back a cease-fire. Lee opposes providing further military aid to Israel, and Porter has called for a “robust discussion” about military assistance.

Schiff supporters were far more likely to approve of Biden’s response to the war than Garvey or Lee supporters. Porter backers were split down the middle about how they felt about Biden’s diplomatic response in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

About 8 in 10 supporters of Garvey were more sympathetic to Israel than the Palestinians, while Lee backers are sympathetic to the Palestinians by more than 2 to 1.

About half of Schiff supporters and 40% of Porter backers said they were equally sympathetic to both sides of the conflict.

The coalitions supporting each candidate have shifted slightly in recent months.

Porter still garners the most support from voters under 50 and those who identify as strongly liberal. Schiff is ahead with voters 65 and older and those who identify as somewhat liberal. Schiff and Porter had been essentially tied in October among voters who identify as Democrats. Now Schiff leads by 10 percentage points among that very large voting bloc.

Lee, who is one of three Black members of Congress from California, had been leading among Black voters statewide but now is essentially tied with Schiff — who leads with Asian American Pacific Islander voters and white voters. Schiff and Porter are essentially tied among Latino voters.

One remaining big unknown is how voters respond to the barrage of television advertising that is about to start in the state.

It’s hard to assess the true political strength of any candidate in California until they start running TV ads, said Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who worked on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign team.

Porter is “starting her TV imminently. Schiff will be right behind her by a few days. He’ll probably have more, but she’s got more charisma. So there’s a little more rocket fuel there if she catches on,” Murphy said.

“The Democratic campaigns are obsessed with Garvey. That’s not because they care about [Garvey winning in] November. If he comes in second, Schiff just won the lottery.”

Both Porter and Schiff have begun or will begin airing ads on cable and broadcast television in Bay Area-San Jose and Oakland markets this week.

Schiff’s ad focuses on some of his accomplishments in Congress. Porter’s ad is focused on how she plans “to shake up the Senate” by banning earmarks, abolishing the filibuster and prohibiting senators from trading individual stocks, among other proposals.

A Schiff spokeswoman said the campaign put “over $700,000” into its ad, while the Porter campaign told the San Francisco Chronicle it made a “seven-figure ad buy.”

Schiff has a significant financial advantage over his competitors. Last week his campaign revealed that it had $35 million on hand after the last fundraising quarter, as of the end of the year.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times