Republican Senate candidate and former baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is getting a campaign boost from an unlikely source: Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a leading rival in the race for the once-held seat by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Schiff’s campaign released an ad profiling Garvey, a political novice seen as his biggest competitor in a tight 2024 Senate race that features two other top Democrats: Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee from Oakland.
“Two candidates leading the Senate. Two very different visions of California,” a narrator intones, later noting that Garvey “is too conservative for California” and voted for Donald Trump twice.
Although the message will turn off the state’s Democratic voters, it could increase the former baseball player’s appeal among Republican voters — as it is designed to do, according to two political strategists.
“It’s pretty clear that Schiff is trying to boost Garvey’s credibility as a runoff opponent, and then Schiff can take the rest of the summer off,” said Democratic political consultant Garry South, who led with Governor Gray Davis’ successful re-election campaign in 2002.
Due to Democrats’ overwhelming voter registration advantage in the state and California’s open primary system, in which the two candidates who received the most votes in the March 5 primary advance in the November general election, regardless of party, the Senate race is on. The effect would be zero if Schiff and a Republican took the top spots in March.
Porter criticized the ad as a political ploy.
“Adam Schiff knows he will lose to me in November. That’s the purpose of this blatantly cynical ad: to pursue her own political career, eliminate qualified Democratic candidates, and encourage a Republican candidate to do so,” she wrote about the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “We need honest leadership, not political games.
Schiff’s campaign argued that voters need to know Garvey’s record given his recent rise in the polls. In the last UC Berkeley Institute for Government Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times, Garvey finished third with the support of 13 percent of likely voters. He lagged behind Porter and Schiff, who had 17% and 21% support, respectively.
“Steve Garvey will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s extreme agenda if he is elected,” Schiff spokeswoman Marisol Samayoa said. “California voters deserve to know the differences between the two most popular candidates.”
The commercial began airing on television Thursday morning. Samayoa declined to reveal how much the campaign spent, but said it was a multimillion-dollar statewide ad buy.
California is home to some of the most expensive media markets in the country. This makes it extremely expensive to mount an effective statewide television campaign.
Schiff’s campaign has the resources to fund such an effort — the Burbank Democrat said he has $35 million in the bank at the end of 2023 in a campaign finance disclosure filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. Barring a massive fundraiser in January or an injection of some of his wealth into his campaign, Garvey will not be able to finance a massive statewide television buy on the basis of the $308,000 in cash he reported in his FEC filing.
Garvey spokesman Matt Shupe called Schiff’s ad “divisive rhetoric that aims to keep us apart.”
“Steve Garvey’s campaign has always been and will continue to be about bringing all Californians together for common-sense, compassionate solutions to today’s real problems, not trivial political hatchet-making.” , Shupe said.
However, similar efforts have been used successfully in previous campaigns in California, including the 2018 gubernatorial race. Democrat Gavin Newsom’s campaign boosted little-known Republican John Cox’s candidacy for governor by pointedly criticizing him for his support of Trump and gun rights, as well as his anti-abortion views in an ad.
Republican voters coalesced behind Cox, giving the businessman a strong enough spot in the primary to edge out Democrat and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to finish second and take on Newsom in the November election. Newsom defeated Cox in that election.
Mike Madrid, a GOP strategist who worked on Villaraigosa’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, called Schiff’s ad a “smart move.” The best way to proceed in this top-two primary system in California is to raise a Republican.
He expected the move to succeed by boxing Porter and Lee out of the race.
“More and more, the Republican becomes a pawn in the Democratic primaries to checkmate whoever is in second place,” Madrid said. “That’s what happened with Antonio, and it seems to be happening with Porter and Lee at this point.”
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