Powerful women are backing a man for California’s Senate seat

Last weekend in Long Beach, Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine met with voters at a small rally in the back patio of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine. It was one of many stops she’s making around California as she campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat that was recently held by the late Dianne Feinstein.

“If one of Katie’s male opponents wins in November, that will be the first time in more than 30 years that California does not have a woman representing us in the Senate,” Democratic Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) said as she introduced Porter.

Boos rang out from the crowd.

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This was a scene my colleague Benjamin Oreskes witnessed on the campaign trail in the final weeks before the March 5 primary. It points to an unanticipated undercurrent of California’s Senate race.

Though California made history in 1993 as the first state to elect two women to the Senate, the state’s streak of female representation may come to an end after this year’s election — and, Oreskes reports, women appear to be a leading reason.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), one of the most powerful women in California and national politics, has endorsed Porter’s male opponent, Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank). So has former Sen. Barbara Boxer, who served alongside Feinstein for nearly a quarter century after they were elected in the first “Year of the Woman.” More than half the women in California’s congressional delegation also back Schiff. And recent opinion polls show Schiff leading the field among female likely voters.

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

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

California’s marquee Senate race could be bad news for down ballot Dems

Strategists with some Democratic House campaigns in California said the state’s Senate race has sucked up all the oxygen and made it more difficult to fundraise.

POLITICO illustration/Photos by AP, Getty Images, iStock

California’s Rep. Adam Schiff’s $35 million war chest for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat is more than twice as large as any other Senate candidate in the nation.

The state plays no role in which party will lead the Senate next year. And yet, some Democratic House campaigns in California have already seen the Senate race start to siphon money and attention away from swing-seats.

Money like that could help flip multiple House seats and power Democrats’ attempt to regain control of Congress. California alone has seven GOP House incumbents that Democrats have targeted The campaign accounts of Schiff and his closest Democratic opponent, fellow Rep. Katie Porter, could transform those contests.

Instead, Schiff and Porter are engaged in an expensive, bruising primary. The tens of millions they’ve raised have largely been spent against each other, not Republicans.

“You have really some high-power people running for this seat and an enormous amount of resources going toward them that could go toward other Democrats. And that’s unfortunate,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), who has endorsed Schiff.

Elsewhere, Senate Democratic incumbents in states like Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania need every dollar they can get to fend off well-resourced Republican challengers. (Though Schiff himself has helped Senate and House campaigns raise money with his prodigious email list.)

The agony of having two of the best fundraisers in the House battle each other has left some in the party hoping that a Republican nabs the second spot in the top-two primary on March 5. Polling has shown Schiff in a commanding lead with Porter and Republican Steve Garvey battling for second. Another prominent House Democrat, Rep. Barbara Lee, trails behind in fourth place. A second-place Garvey win would effectively end the fight for the seat in the deep-blue state instead of letting it drag out until November.

“You won’t hear that giant vacuuming sound with all the money going into that race,” Vargas said of that scenario. “Instead the money will go to other candidates, Democratic candidates.”

California elections are pricey, and the Senate race is sucking up tons of dough

Porter and Schiff are both masterful fundraisers, which makes the internecine battle harder for some Democrats to stomach.

Schiff built a loyal cable news following during the Trump administration by leading the House’s prosecution of the then-president in his first impeachment trial. He endeared himself to millions of MSNBC viewers, who rewarded him with donations. His cash pile is so large that he has invested it and put the interest into his political accounts. His campaign announced raising $6.3 million in the final quarter of 2023, a sum that included $372,000 in interest payments.

Porter has raised at least $3 million in each of the past seven quarters. Her viral committee hearing moments and cable news hits helped her amass a small-dollar fundraising army. She has not yet announced her fourth-quarter numbers — she has until the end of the month — but had $11.9 million in her account at the end of last September, the most recent data available.

Lee ended last September with $1.3 million in the bank.

“You’ve got to get to public financing of campaigns,” said Lee, who has long denounced the system as rigged. If not, “there’s never gonna be a level playing field for anyone.”

California’s expansive geography and big population makes running a statewide campaign very costly. Candidates often need millions to air just one ad introducing themselves to the 22 million registered voters. The Los Angeles media market is the nation’s second most expensive.

So far Schiff has spent more than $15.9 million on TV and digital ads in the Senate race, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm. A super PAC supporting Lee has dropped over $1 million. Porter has spent just over $3 million.

“Schiff spent decades stockpiling corporate PACs’ checks from Big Oil, payday lenders and pharmaceutical companies for this Senate campaign. Katie, on the other hand, spent more than $20 million over three election cycles winning and then defending a frontline House seat,” said Nathan Click, an advisor to Porter.

Schiff has raised or contributed more than $200,000 for Porter since she first ran for Congress in 2018, according to data provided by his campaign.

And there are still some six weeks to go until March 5.

California could help tip control of the House

It’s unclear how much of Schiff’s $35 million he will use before the primary. Democratic colleagues hope he’ll have a lot of extra cash he could deploy toward other races if a Republican advances to the general with him.

“He should turn into Santa Claus and help as many Democratic candidates as possible to help us get the seats we need in California to take the House,” said Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.).

The state will be crucial to Democrats’ hopes of winning back the House, where Republicans have a miniscule majority. National Democrats are targeting GOP Reps. Mike Garcia, Michelle Steel, Young Kim, Kevin Kiley, Ken Calvert, David Valadao and John Duarte.

Schiff is known as a team player in Democratic fundraising circles — even as a Senate candidate. He has raised more than $400,000 for Democratic candidates and organizations since he launched his campaign on January 26, 2023, according to figures tallied by his campaign. That includes $125,000 for Eugene Vindman, who is running for an open House seat in Virginia and sums for embattled Senate Democrats such as Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). He has also raised for California Democratic congressional candidates, including George Whitesides and Rudy Salas, who are running against Garcia and Valadao, respectively.

But some down-ballot Democrats are struggling to keep pace with GOP incumbents’ large cash advantages. And Porter’s decision not to run for reelection leaves open a swing district that she won narrowly in 2022. They also have to defend possibly competitive turf in greater San Diego and the Central Valley.

A few Democratic candidates have posted massive fundraising totals. In the Inland Empire, Calvert was outraised in the third-quarter of last year by opponent Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor. And north of Los Angeles, Garcia ended September with less cash-on-hand than his opponent.

But most Democrats have fallen behind. And strategists with some Democratic campaigns, granted anonymity to speak candidly, said the Senate race has sucked up all the oxygen and made it more difficult to fundraise.

One person working for a Democrat in a swing seat said multiple donors have declined to host fundraisers for that campaign because they had already recently held events for Schiff’s bid. Such fundraisers can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in one night.

“Every dollar matters, and the fact that so much of it is being spent on an intra-party fight is disappointing,” said the operative, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the dynamic. “It’s frustrating when so many of the donors are sidelined or distracted.”

Some Democrats are starting to root for a Republican win in the primary

For Democrats eager to win back the House and keep the Senate, it’s tough to see so much money flowing into a race that won’t affect the balance of power in Congress.

“It’s the most inconsequential US Senate race in America,” said Michael Trujillo, a longtime California Democratic strategist.

The focus on the Senate race has become so intense that some down-ballot campaigns and Schiff endorsers have actually begun pulling for a Republican.

California’s “jungle primary” system means all candidates compete in a primary together, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the November election, regardless of party. Polls show Schiff in first place. But it’s the number two spot that’s up for grabs: If Porter or Lee win, two Democrats will continue to duke it out, expensively, until November.

But if Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball star and Republican candidate, advances, the race would essentially be over. California is so blue statewide that Schiff would be all-but-certain to end up in the Senate. The focus — and millions — could shift elsewhere.

Another potential upside of a Schiff-Garvey matchup is lower TV prices for the down-ballot candidates. An intense Democratic primary stretching to November would drive up ad rates for everyone — which could hurt Democratic challengers more because they are currently less well-funded than GOP incumbents.

A heated Senate race could ratchet up prices in the Central Valley, for example, a more affordable market than the Los Angeles suburbs where Democrats are eyeing two GOP incumbents.

Click here to read the full article in Politico

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

Christina Pascucci, TV Anchor, Is Running for Senate in California

The longtime reporter and anchor at KTLA and Fox 11 in Los Angeles also announced she’s pregnant.

Christina Pascucci, a veteran television news reporter in Los Angeles, launched a longshot campaign for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat on Wednesday, further plunging one of the nation’s most competitive and closely watched primaries deeper into uncertain territory.

Pascucci, a first-time candidate who spent more than a decade at KTLA-TV and Fox 11, joins a contest that’s been rocked in recent weeks by Feinstein’s death and California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Democrat Laphonza Butler, a labor leader and consultant who is nearing an announcement about her own campaign. Further scrambling the dynamic of the March primary is the recent entry of Republican Steve Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodgers all-star, who is trying to vault ahead of a Democrat and into the fall 2024 runoff.

In an exclusive interview with POLITICO to announce her candidacy, Pascucci outlined a run as a moderate consensus builder in a field of bomb-throwing partisans. The 38-year-old Democrat described herself as a “truth-seeker” who would focus on legislating, adding she would apply the same approach she did to newsgathering.

“I’ve been covering the most pressing issues of California for the past 15 years and watching this race closely, as well as covering it and interviewing some of the candidates,” Pascucci said in the interview Tuesday. “And the more I watched it, the more closely I studied it, I honestly felt dismayed by how it was shaping up. I spoke to a lot of others who felt the same way. Like, this is our future — more of the same.”

Pascucci and her team also said she would work to appeal to Latinos and other voters who haven’t been swayed by a trio of far better-known Democrats in the race, Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Schiff and Porter have been atop the field in fundraising and polling for months, trading leads that have hovered in the high teens, but not breaking away.

A Los Angeles resident and San Fernando Valley native who lives with her husband, Pascucci also revealed in the interview that she will be starting the Senate race while she’s about 18 weeks pregnant with their first child — and that their baby was a decisive factor in her mounting the uphill statewide run.

“The only thing crazier than not jumping in this late would be not jumping in at all, because I have to fight for what I believe is possible for California and for this country,” she said.

Pascucci didn’t downplay the difficulty of climbing into the top two by Super Tuesday. She leaned hard into her adventuring background and outsider status as possible areas of appeal. She’s a licensed pilot, fluent Spanish speaker and has traveled to all seven continents and more than 100 countries to expose the shark-finning industry, report from warzones and interview the Dalai Lama at his palace in India. Closer to home, her reporting dove into wasteful water use policies of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

She suggested Democrats have shied away from talking about “the humanitarian crisis happening at our border” out of fear of running afoul of their progressive base and giving ammunition to the hard right, and pledged to fight against the “disinformation warfare” that’s being waged around immigration and more broadly. Pascucci named the late Feinstein and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah as models for the role of senator, keying in on yellow-cornered themes like bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle to make progress. She also discussed growing up with conservative Republican parents.

“I spent my life and my upbringing learning to speak the language of people who disagree with me,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t even try and they just say, ‘They’re extreme.’ That is the worst thing you can do. That is the intent of disinformation: To polarize us. The only way to combat that is by going in, sitting down and talking it out. And that’s what I’ve been trained to do as a journalist.”

California statewide races are exorbitantly expensive, and it generally takes years for politicians to establish their names and bonafides with voters. While Butler, a former leader with the Service Employees International Union, would count on support from her labor connections and relationships with Democratic insiders, Pascucci said whether the interim senator runs had no impact on her own decision.

She left her job at Fox 11 on Tuesday, where she reported and anchored, and said her exposure to donors and celebrity supporters from her time in the news business and in her philanthropic endeavors would translate into financial and electoral backing.

“I put a lot of heart and thoughts and tears into making sure this is the right decision for my family — to risk my entire career I’ve worked so hard and built up,” she said. “I am confident based on all the conversations I have had that I have the resources I need to win this race.”

Pressed on how little time she has to make an imprint in the March primary, Pascucci reiterated she wouldn’t have risked so much to run “if I didn’t see winning as a possibility.”

“People will have plenty to say — especially people who are well-versed in politics — about what can or can’t be done,” she added. “But my campaign is a campaign of possibility, of having people choose between how things have been done or what they can be. And I believe this message will resonate deeply.”

Pascucci didn’t delve deeply into policy, but said in addition to the border and immigration, she wants to focus on education and family support like childcare and parental leave policies. She pointed to a close family member who suffers from mental health issues and addiction and said she’s drawn career inspiration from her proximity to those issues.

And she pledged a different kind of campaign: “My approach to media is different than maybe what’s been done traditionally,” she said.

The campaign is helmed by Bill Burton, the Democratic strategist and Obama-world veteran. Burton began the cycle working with Democratic Senate candidate Lexi Reese, but separated from the campaign earlier in the year. He pointed to Pascucci’s varied life experiences and outsider status to politics as an edge.

Click here to read the full article in Politico

Schiff and Porter Increasingly Dominate Race for Senate, Poll Shows

California has more registered Republicans than any state in the union, but that doesn’t mean one of them will make it to the runoff for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

Six months ahead of the March 5 primary, two Democrats appear likely to face off next year to decide who will replace longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times.

The prospect of Steve Garvey, the former Dodger and Padres legend, entering the race as a high-profile Republican hasn’t scrambled that dynamic, the poll found.

Reps. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine are neck and neck, with support from 20% and 17% of likely voters, respectively, the poll found. The two have opened up sizable leads over their other prominent Democratic opponent, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, who sits at 7%.

Garvey, who has not announced whether he will run, and Republican businessman James Bradley each also had 7% support in the poll. Attorney Eric Early, a perennial GOP candidate, sits at 5%. Roughly a third of likely voters surveyed said they were undecided.

Under California’s top-two system, the two candidates with the most votes in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

“The more Republicans there are [in the race], the lower their chances are of getting somebody in the top two, just because they divide each other’s support up,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Times-Berkeley poll and a longtime California pollster.

“You can change that with a lot of campaigning, but they don’t appear to be that competitive right now for the top two positions,” he added.

The GOP’s Early was favored by 18% of likely voters in a Times-Berkeley poll in May but saw his support plummet through the summer. In that survey, Porter was close behind him with 17% support, followed by Schiff with 14% and Lee at 9%.

Garvey was not included in the previous poll but has been weighing entering the race all summer, his advisor Andy Gharakhani said. “Steve is seriously considering entering this race and speaking directly with voters on the issues they care most about,” Gharakhani said.

Despite several months of campaigning, Lee remains less well-known than Schiff and Porter, with half of likely voters having no opinion of her. Although she is the only Black candidate in the race, she trails among likely Black voters with 16% support, behind Schiff’s 30% and Porter’s 21%.

One factor that has the potential to shake up the race is whether Feinstein will be able to finish her term in office. She was hospitalized with shingles for a week starting in late February. The illness kept her in San Francisco for months. The dozens of Senate votes she missed, including several on judges, led some in her party, including Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, to call on her to step aside.

Last month, she was hospitalized again after falling in her San Francisco home.

If Feinstein were to leave before the end of her term, Gov. Gavin Newsom would need to appoint a temporary replacement. After he appointed a man to fill the former Senate seat of Vice President Kamala Harris, the governor committed to picking a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat were to become vacant.

Newsom hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Senate race, but some supporters of Lee have said he should appoint her if the seat opens up.

Asked what Newsom should do if Feinstein steps down, 51% of likely voters said the governor should appoint someone who is prepared to run for a full Senate term in the 2024 election.

A quarter of likely voters said he should appoint someone who is willing to serve as an interim appointee and not run for a full term. The rest had no opinion.

Schiff and Porter have remained mum on that issue, simply wishing Feinstein the best in her recovery.

The race between Schiff, a former prosecutor who was first elected to the House in 2000, and Porter, a UC Irvine law professor who was first elected in 2018, is shaping up to be a generational clash.

Likely voters older than 65 favor Schiff over Porter, 29% to 12%, the poll found. Those younger than 50 tend to favor Porter: She leads Schiff 23% to 14% among likely voters 30-39 and 27% to 6% among those 18-29.

That could pose a problem for Porter: She does best among those who, while considered likely to submit a ballot, often don’t show up at election time. A recent Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies analysis of voting in the state found that habitual voters tend to be white and older than the average Californian. Frequent voters were also disproportionately over the age of 50.

But the fact that the election is taking place in a presidential year could mitigate that disadvantage, said Sara Sadhwani, a professor of politics at Pomona College.

“One of the things about younger voters … that we tend to see is an increase in turnout in a presidential election year,” she said.

Porter has done an excellent job during committee hearings of creating viral moments that appeal to younger voters on social media, Sadhwani said. The question, though, is whether those voters will show up for the primary in March.

Schiff has leveraged his prominent role as a top antagonist of former President Trump to boost his Senate run. That appears to be paying off with some Democratic voters. He won additional attention when GOP House Republicans voted to censure Schiff for, in their view, going to too far in his efforts against Trump — a reprimand that Schiff has described as a badge of honor.

“It was an opportunity for Schiff again to remind voters in California about the important role that he has played in attempting to save our democracy,” Sadhwani said, adding that Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had only “helped amplify that profile” with the censure vote.

Schiff is by far the best-known candidate in the field, with only 24% of likely voters not having an opinion of him. He got favorable views from 43% of likely voters polled, while 32% had an unfavorable view.

Porter is less known, with 43% of likely voters saying they had no opinion of her, 38% saying they liked her and 19% saying they had an unfavorable view of her.

She leads among voters in Orange County, where she lives, but Schiff leads in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two are neck and neck in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state.

The fact that both leading Democrats are from Southern California is a shift from the state’s previous pattern, noted Chris Lehane, chief strategy officer at Haun Ventures, who previously was an advisor to Gov. Gray Davis and Vice President Al Gore.

“Historically, Democratic primaries were won by a Democrat in the north over the Democrats in the south,” Lehane said. “I think it’s a real question of whether that’s still the case.”

“When you think about 30 years ago when Feinstein first ran, it was a purple state. Now it’s a deep-blue state. Everything has become nationalized,” he added. “It looks like there no longer is the Giants vs. Dodgers dynamic.”

Schiff leads Porter 31% to 26% among registered Democrats surveyed. Among likely voters who identify as strong Democrats, he leads her 35% to 27%.

The two are essentially tied among voters who are registered without a party preference or as members of a smaller party.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Which Orange County Areas are Donating the Most Money to Rep. Katie Porter’s Senate Campaign?

Search by ZIP code to find out who your neighborhood is donating the most to so far this cycle

Rep. Katie Porter is leading in early funding in almost all of the cities in her home county of Orange heading into the 2024 U.S. Senate election, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

While Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, has posted the most substantial overall fundraising numbers so far this cycle, the Irvine Democrat is making a solid showing on her home turf of Orange County. So far, Porter has raised a little over $323,000 in itemized donations from Orange County, which makes up nearly 20% of itemized donations from California and over 11% of total itemized donations.

But how does she stack up against her fellow Senate contenders and congressional colleagues, Schiff and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland in Orange County? To find out, the Southern California News Group compiled campaign finance data for itemized contributions — donations that exceed $200 or aggregate over $200 when added to other contributions received from the same person during the election cycle and are required to be reported — for the three candidates who have been in the race for both quarters of the year.

The largest share of Porter’s haul so far has come from Irvine, where she lives. She’s received $71,934 from more than 60 unique donors, the most coming from the 92617 ZIP code. Laguna Beach is a close second, with $31,914 coming from more than 20 people.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/lX4M3/2/

Porter represents the 47th congressional district, a coastal district anchored in Irvine that includes Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and part of Huntington Beach.

According to a July survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, she is leading the pack among likely voters: 19% of likely voters said they would vote for Porter while 16% said they would choose Schiff and 13% said Lee. 

Porter has received contributions from all but five Orange County cities: Cypress, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia and Stanton — cities in the northwestern corner of Orange County, most of which border neighboring Los Angeles County.

Schiff, who represents part of Los Angeles County, received $2,250 in donations from Cypress, La Habra and Placentia combined. He also outraised Porter in four additional cities: Costa Mesa, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach and Yorba Linda.

In Orange County overall, Schiff raised $165,968 in itemized donations.

Lee, D-Oakland, has raised $28,929 in Orange County, far behind Porter’s and Schiff’s hauls.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Lee’s fundraising efforts will catch up to those of her two Democratic rivals in Orange County. Last month, Lee stepped onto Porter’s turf when she spoke to a friendly crowd at the Laguna Woods Democratic Club’s July meeting. It won’t be her last visit to Orange County, she said.

“Orange County is part of California, why wouldn’t I be here? I need to be everywhere, especially in Orange County,” said Lee. “I want them to get to know me. I’m asking for their vote.”

Lee outraised both Porter and Schiff in two Orange County cities: Laguna Hills and Rancho Santa Margarita. In Laguna Hills, Lee hauled in $13,500 compared to Porter’s $5,560 and Schiff’s $5,550. And in Rancho Santa Margarita, she raised $250 while Porter brought in $190 and Schiff nothing.

Overall though, Schiff is outraising the other candidates. He brought in $8.3 million during the second quarter that ended June 30 and has well over $29 million left in his coffers.

Porter raised $3.2 million in the most recent quarter with $10.4 million cash on hand, and Lee raised just over $1 million with $1.4 million left to spend.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Following Confusion Over Vote, Feinstein to Return to California for August Recess

Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to return to California for the first time in nearly three months, her spokesperson told The Chronicle. She has remained in Washington, D.C., since her reappearance in May after having shingles.

Feinstein’s actions and whereabouts have drawn increased scrutiny since her return, including an incident Thursday in which she appeared confused during a vote. It came close on the heels of a separate incident in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suddenly stopped speaking and froze for 19 seconds during a news conference Wednesday until he was escorted away by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who is a physician. McConnell was absent from the Senate for about a month earlier this year after being hospitalized with a concussion and a minor rib fracture.

While voting to approve an annual defense appropriations bill in committee Thursday, Feinstein got into a brief back-and-forth with Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. 

Feinstein’s name was called to vote and Murray immediately told her “say aye. Aye.” Feinstein paused as if she was going to say more, and Murray repeated, “just say aye.” Feinstein then began reading from her remarks about the bill, and Murray again said, “just say aye.”

The Appropriations Committee markup was chaotic, her spokesperson Ron Eckstein said, and Feinstein had not realized debate had ended and votes were being taken.

It wasn’t the first time Feinstein appeared to be confused during a recent vote.

Feinstein mistakenly voted to support a Republican amendment to a Supreme Court ethics bill she sponsored June 20. She later corrected her vote. Eckstein said it’s common for members to need to correct their votes because they’re often moving between multiple committees.

Lawmakers often fly back to their home states during weekends or weeklong “district work periods.” The Senate was scheduled for breaks the week of May 22 and the weeks of June 26 and July 3, during which Feinstein remained in Washington. The annual August recess is set to begin July 28. Lawmakers are not expected to return to Washington until after Labor Day.

Feinstein returned to Washington May 9 after a nearly three-month absence while ill with a serious bout of shingles. She has only missed 10 of the 86 votes since her return to the Senate, and she hasn’t missed a single one since the beginning of June, according to a Chronicle analysis. 

Feinstein plans to meet with constituents in her office and attend some public events, including a celebration of the San Francisco cable cars on Aug. 2, Eckstein said.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle