Steve Garvey's GOP Surge in California Senate Race

Unexpected twists shape California's Senate race dynamics

by Zain ul Abedin
Steve Garvey's GOP Surge in California Senate Race
© Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

In the latest twist in the race for the U.S. Senate seat from California, a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Los Angeles Times, has unveiled a surprising frontrunner. Republican Steve Garvey, a former Dodger, has edged ahead in the primary election's closing days, marking a significant shift in a contest predominantly dominated by Democrats.

This development comes as a shock in a state known for its liberal leanings, where Democratic representatives Adam B. Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee have been vying fiercely for the top spot. Garvey's unexpected lead in the primary underscores a political landscape in flux.

Garnering support from 27% of likely voters, he narrowly outpaces Schiff's 25% and Porter's 19%, with Lee trailing at 8%. This tight race suggests a possible face-off between Garvey and Schiff in the general election, despite California's Democratic predilection.

Schiff, representing Burbank, is anticipated to have a considerable advantage over Garvey in a direct matchup, with initial polls showing a 53% to 38% lead in Schiff's favor. This election cycle has been anything but predictable, especially for a Republican candidate like Garvey to take the lead, albeit slightly, in a state as blue as California.

The crowded Democratic field, featuring heavyweights like Schiff and Porter, along with the popular Lee, has fragmented Democratic votes, paving the way for Garvey's rise. Initially, Garvey's campaign, which has spent a modest $1.4 million, lagged in polls.

However, a recent surge in recognition - particularly among Republican voters - has significantly altered the race's dynamics.

Strategic Campaign Tactics

Interestingly, Garvey's campaign has received an inadvertent boost from Schiff, who has invested over $25 million in television advertising.

These ads, which highlight the stark contrasts between Schiff and Garvey, aim to consolidate Democratic votes by portraying Garvey as too conservative for California. Yet, this strategy might also amplify Garvey's appeal among Republican voters, as intended by Schiff's campaign.

This tactical move, while controversial, reflects the intricate strategizing that defines political campaigns. Katie Porter has criticized Schiff's approach, advocating for integrity over political maneuvering. Nonetheless, experts like Times columnist Mark Z.

Barabak view these tactics as a standard part of the political playbook, emphasizing the strategic nature of electioneering rather than ethical considerations. Another crucial factor in this electoral saga is the expected low voter turnout for the primary, which tends to favor candidates like Garvey.

The electorate's composition - older, whiter, and more Republican than California's average - could tilt the scales further in his favor, adding another layer of unpredictability to an already unprecedented race.