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. 

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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


  1. Leo of Sacramento says

    Just as a point of reference, WHO exactly, is Jim Newton again? Is he the same guy, who worked for the LA Times for over 25 years? Is he the same guy who wrote about Jane Fonda: “She is not an official campaign spokesperson, but Fonda brings near-iconic status to the effort. First introduced to the public decades ago as a beautiful and talented actress, Fonda has parlayed her fame into political action. She has placed her reputation — even her life — in defense of participatory democracy” THAT Jim Newton??
    I notice how Jim failed to mention Iconic Janes posing with Communist troops on a 40mm Anti Aircraft weapon, during the Viet Nam day. Some of us remember “Hanoi Jane” and still feel her sorry ass should have been jailed. But, I digress.

    While this articles is, ummmm, interesting, suffice to say, it doesn’t put Republicans in a good light. As a matter of fact, it places them smack dab in the middle of ‘desperate for someone’ to be of ANY official candidate for any office in this State? (Hmmm, I may fit this category as well)
    Who vetted out Steve? Who’s endorsed him? Who vouches for him? Specifics about what he’ll do for the State are neat, but he’s running for the Senate. You know. THOSE people who show up ad DC, and suddenly lose touch with reality types? The ones who DON’T worry about State politics anymore, as they do NATIONAL politics?? Those type. What is Garvey’s expectations? What do WE the public, expect from him?
    It’s hard to understand, what to expect from this race. I don’t get it. He’s asked about local question, but Steve won’t be dealing with local issues. He’s already chopping down Lee and Porter, but Shifty is Nancy Pelosi’s guy! They debate tonight, which will be funny, if the topic is about Climate change. Really? THE most pressing issue of our time?? Let me give you a hint: YES! THE CLIMANTE IS CHANGING! IT”S CALLED SPRING. IT’LL CHANGE AGAIN FOR THE SUMMERTIME TOO. Now what?
    March is right around the corner. What exactly has the Party done for ol Steve? I don’t hear too much about him in Sacto. Anyone else? Is Jessica “Stumping for Steve”? We’ll see what happens during the debate tonight. I hope it’s not a tone death thing to have to witness.
    March is right around the corner…………it’ll be Garvey vs Shifty. (MY humble opinion)

  2. Boris Badenov says

    IF the CA state GOP had any sense and we all know they don’t, they could have had a great selection of excellent people to get behind but they’ve managed to screw almost every one of them at some point in time.

  3. Pesky squirrel

  4. Leo of Sacramento says

    Omg! Did ANYONE ELSE watch this debate? Sickening. 3 Demo ambush. Lee? She acts like she’s still back in Macon GA circa 1963…..way tooo much for lgbtq status. Shifty? Still a crook. Porter? Neat, has spunk, but basically stated: you’re GOING to move to go-green, or else we’ll move you toward it.
    And Garvey?Reminded me of Grandpa Walton. No substance and Definately, no fire.
    IF, all the Republican quit, Porter and lee drop and shifty gets half of their voters (15%), both sides would pick up 15% of voters. Shifty wins by 9%.
    Wonder what I’ll be facing as I try/fight for Governor 2026. Wait, at least I have fight in me!

  5. Where is Garvey’s vision? Where are his concrete solutions for problems that differ from the Dems? Yes, he is an alternative to three ultra-leftists, but he lacks the ability to convert independents and more conservative Democrats, as Schwarzenegger did vs. Gray Davis. Garvey won’t win with the few remaining Republicans in CA.

  6. Joseph Gallo says

    Steve Garvey needs to get out of the race now he’s masking the true talent in the Republican field Denice Gary-Pandol or even Eric early no one has even mentioned them all they’re talking about is Gavi stupidity we all know he’s stupid what’s worse is the people that are at the top of the republican party are making some very poor decisions and castrating their constituents before they even have an opportunity to make a decision. Don’t we have anyone with vision in this party any longer Steve do everyone in California a favor and drop out now sincerely, Joseph Gallo

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