Steve Garvey has barely campaigned for Senate in California. In any case, he is on the rise

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Steve Garvey has barely campaigned for Senate in California. In any case, he is on the rise

California Politics, Homepage News, Elections 2024

Ziema Mehta

March 3, 2024



All-Star Steve Garvey’s quixotic

// or Seema wants to remain quixotic //

The campaign for the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Dianne Feinstein appears likely to pay off during Tuesday’s California primary. Despite his barely-there strategy, Garvey organized few public events and did not pay for a single television advertisement. Polls show the Republican poised to win one of the top two spots in the nonpartisan primary and advance to the general election.

Political experts say Garvey was buoyed by two forces: fame for his nearly two decades playing for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, including the Dodgers’ 1981 World Series victory, and a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz by his opponent, the Democratic frontrunner. Representative Adam B. Schiff and his allies strengthened Garvey’s position among Republican voters.

Schiff (D-Burbank) will benefit if Garvey advances to the November election due to California’s overwhelming Democratic tilt. Garvey has 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 Republicans if it gives Republicans a boost in tight congressional races that will be decisive in determining control of the US. House of Representatives.

He has become a chance for Schiff to avoid a tough November race against a fellow Democrat, said veteran GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, a former adviser to the former governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That said, it’s also great for Republicans. They are much better off with a Senate candidate in the fall for down ballots.

News that Garvey had met with GOP donors and leaders across the state as he pondered a possible Senate bid leaked last spring. It took months for him to officially announce he was running for the seat, which caused headaches among political insiders because of the amount of money that must be raised to run a statewide campaign in California, home to some of the most expensive media markets in the world. the nation.

Once Garvey entered the race, he no longer mounted a traditional campaign. He has not held any large rallies or public meet-and-greets with voters across the state. He spent no money on television advertising, never rented a campaign bus and refused 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, leading Democrats running for the Senate seat stormed the state, with Schiff hosting 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 chance to recruit voters, Garvey felt at home in Palm Desert, visible to the public only through TV ads paid for by Schiff and his supporters.

Garvey’s campaign rejected the idea that he was not publicly involved and that Schiff’s messages helped the Republicans’ candidacy.

He has reached voters through radio programs and local and conservative media. According to a report from Cision, a media tracking company, he was mentioned 4,920 times on those forums in the past month. On Friday, Garvey appeared on Fox News, Newsmax, NewsNation and talk radio in Fresno.

“What @AdamSchiff, pundits and insiders won’t admit and will come up with a million excuses to explain away, my campaign has had momentum since I announced and


because of my 50-year relationship with Californians and because I care about their problems,” 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 circumstances, he was often unable to provide specific answers to reporters’ questions. Standing outside a homeless shelter in San Diego in January, Garvey was asked about his lack of policy prescriptions for the homeless, an issue that is a priority for Californians. Once we’re done with the primaries, I’ll dive deeper into it [issues]he said.

I haven’t been at this very long, so you have to give me some leeway here.

Garvey’s strategy so far is one that could be seen in a legislative battle, not one

that’s typical

for a statewide candidate trying to reach nearly 22 million voters.

The last two prominent Republicans to run for governor and senator in California, Meg Whitman (no longer a member of the Republican Party) and Carly Fiorina, ran extensive campaigns, sometimes approaching presidential-level operations. They held meticulously staged events across the state featuring well-known Republicans, such as then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and then-Arizona Senator. John McCain flew to California in 2010 to stump for them.

Voter registration in the state has since shifted sharply to the left, but even lesser-known Republican candidates have stormed the state with high-profile campaign tactics. Businessman John Cox tripped with a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear named Tag and an 8-foot ball of trash while running in the 2021 governor’s recall election. Neel Kashkari destroyed a wind-up toy train and handed out gas cards to protest high Prices. speed rail during his election as governor in 2014.

The last two celebrities to run for state office in California in 2003 and 2006, Schwarzenegger, and Caitlyn Jenner in the 2021 recall election, ran much more publicly involved campaigns than Garvey. Schwarzenegger entered politics after years as a bodybuilding champion and movie star. Jenner rose to fame as an Olympic athlete, then known as Bruce Jenner, before becoming a reality TV personality

and coming out as transgender


Charles Moran, chairman of Log Cabin Republicans, the leading Republican LGBTQ+ organization, attributed this to a personality difference between Garvey and his predecessors.

You can tell the difference in the desire to go there, he said.

A key question is whether Garvey’s minimal public engagement with voters and the mainstream California press will change if he makes it to the general election, said Dan Schnur, a professor of politics at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine.

When he appeared in public he remained very general and spoke in very broad terms on most issues he was asked about. That’s because he doesn’t know the answers, or because he and his team recognize the need to strike a balance between attracting support from hardline conservatives and also reaching beyond the grassroots, Schnur said. It’s starting to look like we have eight months to find out.


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