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.

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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


  1. Catherine Hintz says

    And the candidates with the really big campaigns you admire . . . Whitman, Fiorina, Cox, Kashkari . . . where are they now?

  2. Rico Lagattuta says

    Garvey does not have to campaign. Shiff is doing it for him!

    • Precisely. Remember that Schiff is persona non grata in the House.

      • Really??? says

        Schiffty knows if he is too exposed the criminal use of his power as the Trump impeachment investigation comes out. It has been proven conclusively he hid documentation and when he had the majority refused to even present documents that were public record.

        Dem’s will vote for this criminal. Just as they voted for the corrupt Biden Administration.

        They have no honor.

  3. Leo of Sacramento says

    that’s a scary thought………your DEMO opponent is working harder than YOU are for your own campaign.
    Your own PARTY isn’t doing as much as the DEMO side, to get you elected.
    Wow……..what a world we live in.
    Per the recent polls (and we ALL know how these things pan out)

    shitty vs garvey in the general.

    It could be closer than folks realize, IF the current numbers stay like they are.

  4. Yes, it’s true…Newscum IS that bad.

    Best wishes and luck to Steve G.

  5. Would SO be nice to have a Republican senator but the reality of California is that the people living and voting along the coast and in Sacramento are solidly liberal Democrats and will elect Schiff probably by a wide margin, in a Schiff-Garvey race (or a race against any Republican). Just as California will throw all its electors into the Biden (or the Newsom) camp in November.
    The focus of California conservatives should be on maintaining or growing the “red” counties for representatives in Congress. Democrats have operatives actively working those areas to elect Democrats in those areas and indeed swung 7 representatives from R to D in the past.

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