Monday, April 15, 2024

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Super Tuesday Spotlight: Schiff and Garvey Front-Runners in California Senate Showdown

Competitive California Senate primary sees Schiff and Garvey pull ahead as Porter struggles to gain traction.

Adam Schiff/Katie Porter
Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

According to a recent poll, the California Senate race to replace the late Senator Dianne Feinstein has narrowed down to two main contenders – Democratic Representative Adam Schiff and Republican Steve Garvey. While early on it seemed that this would be a competitive three-way race between Schiff, Porter, and Garvey, Schiff and Garvey have pulled away from Porter and emerged as the leaders heading into Super Tuesday.

A poll released today shows Schiff leading with 36% of likely voters supporting him. However, Garvey has surged recently and sits at 34% support. Meanwhile, Porter has faded and garnered just 12% support. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points, meaning Schiff and Garvey are in a statistical dead heat.

The poll seems to confirm what many political observers have suspected – that Porter struggled to gain traction outside of her progressive base. Her reluctance to fundraise aggressively likely didn’t help either. Besides that, Schiff and Garvey have run more visible campaigns, tapping into their existing bases of support.

For Schiff, his high name recognition from leading Trump’s first impeachment has been an asset. Despite Republican attempts to portray him as a partisan, Schiff comes across as a principled leader to many California voters. And his willingness to stand up to a wannabe dictator in Trump is especially important now that Trump is a virtual lock to be the Republican nominee.

The poll showing Schiff and Garvey as the clear front runners confirms what many saw coming for months. When Senator Feinstein’s declining health forced her into retirement last year, Schiff quickly emerged as the early favorite to replace her. His strong leadership during Trump’s first impeachment made him a hero to many Democrats nationally and especially in his home state of California.

However, Garvey proved to be a formidable foe once he entered the race. The former baseball star tapped into his celebrity and name recognition to generate excitement. And by touting moderate policy positions, Garvey seemed poised to compete for California’s crucial independent voters. Early on, it appeared that it would be a close three-way race between Schiff, Garvey and progressive favorite, Rep. Katie Porter.

Yet as the campaign wore on, Schiff began solidifying Democratic support thanks to his strong progressive credentials and the party establishment lining up behind him. Porter struggled to differentiate herself from Schiff on policy and her campaign failed to gain momentum beyond her progressive base.

Porter continued campaigning tirelessly, crisscrossing the state to attend rallies, town halls, and meet-and-greets. Her progressive policy platform, including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, energized young voters and left-wing activists. Porter also earned key endorsements from groups like the California Teachers Association and prominent environmental organizations.

Yet the polls remained stagnant, with one mid-April survey showing Schiff leading at 38% and Garvey at 35%, while Porter lingered under 15%. Pundits debated whether Porter was simply running to increase her statewide name recognition and position herself for a future run. Others warned she risked fading into irrelevance if she didn’t perform respectably in the primary.

As the June 7th primary neared, Porter doubled down instead of dropping out. She loaned her campaign $2 million and increased her attacks on Schiff and Garvey. In a fiery speech, she declared that this election is a choice between the corporate status quo or bold, progressive fighters who will take our country back. Her campaign also rolled out several splashy policy proposals, including a plan to curb prescription drug costs.

Unfortunately, Porter was unable to close the gap by election day. But her gutsy underdog campaign earned her increased national recognition and cemented her status as a champion of the progressive left. She may have lost this Senate battle, but at just 48 years old, her political career almost certainly has brighter days ahead.

Meanwhile, Garvey ran an energetic campaign that appealed to independents and even some Republicans disenchanted with their party’s rightward drift. His middle-of-the-road policy views and bipartisan messaging allowed him to consolidate the moderate vote. So, while Schiff maintained a consistent lead throughout the campaign, Garvey has kept pace better than expected.

In the California Senate race, the emergence of Adam Schiff and Steve Garvey as the principal contenders has underscored the complex nature of political campaigns in the Golden State. Despite the early predictions of a closely contested three-way race, Schiff and Garvey have been able pull ahead, leaving Porter to reflect on what might have been.

Schiff’s impressive track record and steadfast principles, paired with Garvey’s widespread charm and moderate politics, pave the way for an entertaining Super Tuesday in California. Although Porter’s campaign may not have captivated the electorate on this occasion, her relentless dedication to progressive values and the vigor she injected into the campaign offer a glimpse into the future of American politics, where demographic changes are gradually steering the nation more to the left.