California election results: As California Votes, Adam Schiff Punches Ticket to Senate Showdown with Steve Garvey

In a battle royale for a coveted U.S. Senate seat, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Republican baseball legend Steve Garvey have emerged victorious from California’s top-two primary, setting the stage for an epic November clash that could shatter decades-old political precedents.

Tuesday’s primary results, though still preliminary, sealed Schiff’s frontrunner status and granted Garvey an improbable shot at becoming the first Republican elected to statewide office in California since 2006’s gubernatorial race.

While the odds may seem insurmountable for the GOP candidate, this David vs Goliath matchup promises to be a blockbuster affair sparking fierce debates on everything from immigration to energy policy as two diametrically opposed visions for the nation’s most populous state vie for supremacy.

2024 California Primary Results
2024 CALIF. CLASS I ALL-PARTY PRIMARY
U.S. SENATE
estimates
47% of votes counted
Adam Schiff and Steve Garvey win.
CANDIDATE VOTES PCT.
Adam Schiff 1,247,723 33.2% DEM
Steve Garvey 1,220,683 32.5% GOP
Katie Porter 519,631 13.8% DEM
Barbara Lee 276,854 7.4% DEM
Eric Early 135,396 3.6% GOP
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For Schiff, Triumph and Turmoil

In his victory speech before boisterous supporters in Los Angeles, Schiff hailed his performancewhile acknowedging temporary disruptions from pro-Palestine protesters chanting for a Gaza ceasefire.

“We are so lucky to live in a democracy where we all have the right to protest,” the 63-year-old congressman countered in a reminder of America’s cherished free speech

The former federal prosecutor and lead House manager in Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020 has fought tirelessly to secure the Senate seat being vacated by retiring liberal icon Dianne Feinstein.

Schiff’s $38 million ad blitz not only cemented his frontrunner status but cleverly elevated Garvey’s name identification among Republican voters – a tactical masterstroke that helped edge out progressive favorite Katie Porter.

Some Democrats breathed sighs of relief knowing a Schiff-Porter battle could have drained precious resources from down-ballot races pivotal to controlling Congress. Now, Schiff can divert some of his fundraising windfall to boost Democratic candidates nationwide.

“Adam Schiff has shown he’s one of the fundraising stars of his party,” noted Thad Kousser, a professor of political science at the University of California San Diego. “Once you secure your seat, you’ve got to use that star power to help your team rather than just yourself.”

Butting Heads on Trump and Key Issues

There’s no question that Trump’s looming shadow and the fallout from Schiff’s impeachment efforts have shaped this race in profound ways.

The Air Force veteran has actively fundraised off Trump’s broadsides against him while touting his truth-to-power mentality in holding the former president accountable.

“At Trump’s urging, Republicans censured me for that – and I think all those things were basically what we would call Wednesday,” Schiff quipped defiantly.

Schiff’s anti-Trump credentials helped sway Democratic primary voters like Sacramento hotel manager Ben James who believes “we have to do anything we can to prevent [Trump’s return] from happening again.”

On the other side, Garvey’s stance on Trump has been more opaque. Though confirming he voted for Trump twice, the 74-year-old Republican dodges clearly stating whether he’d support Trump going forward.

While some pundits view Garvey’s vagueness as strategic given California’s liberal leanings, Kousser argues “You can’t win a general election in California as the Donald Trump candidate.”

Extending beyond Trump, voters can expect Schiff and Garvey to clash fervently on myriad other hot-button topics during their eight-month clash.

The two hold polar opposite views on immigration, with Garvey calling for a southern border shutdown while Schiff opposes Biden’s restrictive asylum policies. On energy, Garvey champions continued U.S. reliance on gas and oil while Schiff seeks a decisive pivot from fossil fuels.

Even on bread-and-butter economic issues like the minimum wage, a chasm exists – the progressive Schiff wants it raised to $20 and indexed to inflation while Garvey supports preserving the paltry $7.25 federal level.

Improbable Path for the Republican?

For all the stark policy differences, Garvey faces a brutal arithmetic challenge in seriously threatening to capture this Senate prize.

With Democrats outnumbering Republican voters almost 2-to-1 statewide and the party’s institutional fundraising disadvantage, few envision significant national GOP investments in California’s Senate race when more competitive swing state battlegrounds beckon.

As Republican strategist Jon Fleischman bluntly assessed, “The math doesn’t make sense to try to win California at the expense of spending all that money on states where they can be a lot more competitive.”

The matchup understandably dismayed progressives like Porter who railed against “billionaires [who] spent millions to keep [her] out of the U.S. Senate.” For her supporter Charlene Bennett, 57, a woman of color voice was sorely missed in replacing Feinstein:

“When we talk about women’s rights and reproductive rights, we need to have a woman there in the moment when decisions are happening.”

Breaking Stereotypes or Reinforcing Them?

Beyond the ideological tug-of-war, the looming Schiff-Garvey contest has reignited discussions around ethnic and gender diversity in California’s representation.

As Kousser laments, “We have two old white men in this incredibly diverse and dynamic state fighting to replace Dianne Feinstein’s seat. This looks like your grandfather’s California.”

After Alex Padilla’s 2022 victory, the state will return to an all-male Senate delegation for the first time in over 30 years should Schiff prevail in November. Some perceive the prospective return to two white male senators as a jarring regression for the trailblazing liberal bastion.

Still, contrarians like former Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo advise against reading too much into a single data point like the Senate race, arguing “It’s very short-sighted to just look at the U.S. Senate race as a referendum on the top-two primary system…It’s working the way it’s supposed to in every single legislative and congressional race we have.”

Ahead of November, expect both Schiff and Garvey to double down on playing to their respective party’s base as the maroon and blue heavyweights trade jabs on the future of the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Should Garvey somehow defy the steep odds against him, it would rank among the biggest political upsets in modern California history and spark seismic reverberations across the national landscape.

But most signs point to Schiff coasting to inevitable victory as he pivots attention to brandishing his fundraising prowess for securing Democrats’ broader electoral fortunes.

No matter how it unfolds, this audacious Schiff vs Garvey slugfest guarantees must-see political theater very few prognosticators saw coming.

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