California Senate Seat up for grabs

Four candidates poll over 1% and are competing for a spot in the general election.

Four US Senate candidates polled above 2% in a late January poll by USC, Cal Poly Pomona and California State University, Long Beach. (Ana Hunter / Daily Trojan)

On March 5, Californians will vote in two United States Senate primary elections: one to fill the remainder of Dianne Feinstein’s term following her death in September, and another for a full six-year term beginning January 2025. The top two placing candidates in both elections will compete in the general election in November.

Following Feinstein’s death, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to fill the seat until the special election. Soon after being appointed, Butler indicated she would not run in either race. In a late January poll by USC, Cal Poly Pomona and California State University, Long Beach, four candidates polled above 2%: Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, Steve Garvey and Barbara Lee.

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Steve Garvey

A former Los Angeles Dodger whose campaign website touts his business acumen and charity work, Steve Garvey is running as a political outsider.

He has expressed disagreement with President Joe Biden’s handling of the border and economy. However, he has largely avoided media questions on his positions and said he intends to wait until after the primary to present specific policy plans. Garvey did not return a Daily Trojan request for comment.

Garvey has said the conversations he has with Californians will shape the policies he eventually develops and that he cannot provide specifics until he has had these conversations.

“I knew I needed to tour California. I needed to talk to people. I needed to hear from them … and that’s what I’ve done,” said Garvey at a Jan. 22 debate held at USC.

He has faced attacks for voting for Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, and he spent the campaign dodging questions about whether he would vote for Trump again in 2024.

“When the time comes … I will look at the two candidates. I will determine what they did and, at that time, I will make my choice,” Garvey said.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee has been a staunch progressive during her two-and-a-half decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, most recently representing the 12th Congressional District, which includes Oakland. She was the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing broad use of military force following the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the Senate race, she has been a consistent voice for a ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza. Her platform also includes support for the Green New Deal to address climate change, a living wage beyond a $15 minimum wage and eliminating all student debt.

“I’m taking an all-sides approach to making California a place that young people can thrive, not

just survive,” Lee wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan.

Lee received the endorsement of the Trojan Democrats Feb. 7. 

“The way that Congresswoman Lee goes about governing is something that really gave a lot of confidence to a lot of people and to know that she’s stood up for the right thing,” said Sara Stienecker, president of the Trojan Democrats, in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “She stood up against the curtailing of our rights time and time again.”

Katie Porter

Known for her work grilling CEOs during committee hearings, Katie Porter has focused her campaign on an economy that supports families and her opposition to money from corporate political action committees. 

“Decades of inaction by career politicians — many beholden to corporate special interests — have allowed our state’s challenges with housing, college costs, and climate change to spiral into full-blown crises. It is increasingly difficult for young people to build their lives in California,” Porter wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan.

Porter supports investment in clean energy and mass transit to address climate change. She also supports “tuition-free public college” and some amount of college debt forgiveness.

After working to enforce a settlement between California and large banks after the mortgage crisis, Porter became a Representative for the 47th District, encompassing much of Orange County, in 2018. 

She has drawn a distinction with other candidates in her opposition to Congressional earmarks — funds politicians set aside for specific projects in their districts. Porter has staked a middle-ground position on Israel’s war in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire conditional upon the release of all hostages and an end to Hamas control of Gaza.

However, Porter has faced attacks for her consulting work with insurance company Ocwen Financial Corporation just after she worked to regulate insurance companies for the state. 

Adam Schiff

Adam Schiff focuses his platform on what he said is a need to protect democracy by a slate of reform efforts including abolishing the filibuster and prohibiting members of Congress from trading stocks. Schiff has touted his work as an impeachment manager during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment and his role leading the investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

His platform also includes plans to cancel at least $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower and strengthen federal antitrust laws. To address climate change, Schiff supports ending fossil fuel subsidies and passing the Green New Deal. 

“Whether it be to combat the affordable housing crisis or the climate crisis, the state of California has incredible issues and we need someone that’s going to be putting people over politics,” said Brandon Tavakoli, a Schiff supporter and junior majoring in business administration as well as public policy. “Adam Schiff has proven that he’s the best candidate to do that.” 

Schiff did not respond to the Daily Trojan’s request for comment.

Schiff has not called for a ceasefire in Israel’s war in Gaza. He has called for Israel to minimize civilian casualties but has defended Israel’s right to defend itself. 

He has received the endorsements of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi as well as 28 other Democratic representatives from California.

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