Bases Loaded in California’s Senate Race


Three Democrats teamed up against the lone Republican in a televised debate this week in a bid to force him to say whether he was voting for Donald Trump.

Four candidates running for one of California’s two U.S. Senate seats faced off at a lively televised debate in Los Angeles on topics including war in the Middle East, the border crisis, the economy, housing and homelessness, health care, and abortion Jan. 22.

The participants—Democrat U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter and Republican Steve Garvey—had qualified for the debate after landing the top four slots in a mid-December Politico/Morning Consult poll of likely primary voters, according to Fox News 11 Los Angeles, which hosted the debate with Politico.

The 1.5-hour event heated up about halfway through when co-moderators Elex Michaelson of Fox News 11 and Melanie Mason of Politico pressed Mr. Garvey, a former first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, about where he stands on former President Donald Trump.

After Mr. Garvey tried to covered his political bases, saying, “I think when we vote for a president, and he’s duly elected, I believe we should support that president, support the office, because that’s the leader of the United States, the Free World,” Ms. Porter quipped, “once a dodger, always a dodger.”

“This is not the minor leagues,” she said. “Who will you vote for?”

Earlier in the debate KFI AM radio host Mo Kelly asked candidates to complete the sentence: “If the American people should choose former President Donald Trump to return as Commander in Chief, then [blank].”

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A well-known political foe of Mr. Trump’s, Mr. Schiff seized the opportunity to bash him.

“If Donald Trump is elected president then we are … and it rhymes with crude,” he said. “He is rude. He is the greatest threat to our democracy. His election would be the gravest threat in our country’s history—certainly it’s modern history.”

According to public reports, Mr. Garvey voted twice for Mr. Trump, whose agenda, Ms. Lee claimed, is to “dismantle our democracy.” She vowed to protect freedom and democracy by preventing Mr. Trump “from ever again running for public office,” noting she’s the lead plaintiff in an NAACP lawsuit against Mr. Trump, the Oath Keepers, and the Proud Boys.

Ms. Porter filled in the blank, saying, “… then we will lose credibility on the world stage.”

She said a second term for Mr. Trump would set the U.S. back decades in diplomacy and building democracies around the world, drive out military leaders, and “weaken the diverse recruitment of the military that we need to keep our country safe.”

Then Mr. Schiff interrupted, saying he wanted “to underscore” Ms. Lee’s comment, grilling Mr. Garvey and criticizing Mr. Trump.

Steve Garvey at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York. (Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
Steve Garvey at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York. (Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

“You won’t tell the public whether you’re going to support this man again. You voted for him twice. You saw what he did on Jan. 6. You have to see what a threat he is to the country. I can understand you don’t want to alienate the MAGA world by saying you’re against him, but you also won’t stand up to him. What more do you need to see of what he’s done to be able to say that you will not support him, that you will not vote to put him back in office? What more do any of us need to see?”

“Well, actually that was going to be my question, so … ,” Mr. Michaelson said, evoking laughter from the audience.

“I mean, there’s identity politics at its finest right there—trying to paint me into the corner, trying to call me MAGA,” Mr. Garvey responded. “I’m my own man, I make my own decisions.”

“Mr. Garvey, the public would like to know as your own man, what is your decision?” Porter asked.

Mr. Garvey defended his vote, saying that both times Mr. Trump was “the best person for the job,” noting that, according to economists, “Trump did an exceptional job for our economy.”

Mr. Michaelson pressed him further.

“Here’s the question … If the choice is Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, as you suggested to Politico, you may vote for Joe Biden. Are you? How are you undecided, and what would make that decision for you?” he asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Garvey responded.

“OK, well clarify your view then,” Mr. Michaelson said.

“When the time comes, I’ll do exactly what I said. I will look at the two opponents, I will determine what they did, and at that time, I will make my choice,” Mr. Garvey said.

He defended Mr. Trump, saying that although he’s been called ‘terrible for the world,’” Americans were much safer under his watch than Mr. Biden’s.

“I don’t believe Joe Biden has been good for this country,” he said.

Mr. Garvey said in the last two presidential elections, Trump was the strongest choice over opponents: Hillary Clinton, who “talked down” to Americans,” and “thought she was entitled” to the presidency in 2016 and Joe Biden, who “stayed in a basement and only came out in a controlled environment” in 2020.

Ms. Lee also demanded to know where Mr. Garvey stands on Mr. Trump.

“You cannot waffle on this. You have to say if you support the MAGA extremist Republican agenda led by Donald Trump to dismantle our democracy,” she said. “Do you support that or not?”

Polls show two-thirds of Republican voters in California support Mr. Trump, Mr. Michaelson pointed out.

“There are a lot of people in this country that love Donald Trump and think he was a great president,” he said. “What’s your view?”

“I love how I’ve stimulated the baseball terms with everybody, but let’s face it, at the end of the day, it’s all a personal choice,” Mr. Garvey replied.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff speaks to supporters at a kickoff rally for his Senate campaign tour in Burbank, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff speaks to supporters at a kickoff rally for his Senate campaign tour in Burbank, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Housing and Homelessness

But the baseball analogies didn’t end there, with Mr. Schiff throwing another curve ball at Mr. Garvey over his assessment of the next topic: housing and homelessness.

“When was the last time any of you any of you went to the inner city actually walked up to the homeless as I have over these last three weeks?” Mr. Garvey said, stating he’s been to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento over the last few weeks to meet the homeless.

“I needed to talk to the homeless, went up to them and touched them and listened to them,” he said.

Mr. Garvey said some of the homeless told him it was the first time anyone had approached them to ask about their plight.

“They don’t get it,” he said, motioning toward his opponents and referring to them as “career politicians.”

If elected to the Senate, Mr. Garvey said he will ask for an audit of the federal government’s spending on housing.

First offering a tongue-in-cheek apology, Mr. Schiff jokingly responded saying Garvey’s answer was “a total swing and a miss—a total whiff.”

“You’re a hell of a ballplayer,” Mr. Schiff said, “but here’s the thing: This is predominantly a problem of not enough housing, it’s a supply problem, and we need to build hundreds of thousands of units of new housing. We can do that if we incentivize through tax credits the building of affordable housing. Otherwise, we’re never going to solve this problem.”

Ms. Lee mocked Mr. Garvey, saying “I’ve just got to say as somebody who’s been unsheltered, I cannot believe how he described his walk, and touching, and being there with the homeless.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), left, speaks during a press conference in Washington on Nov. 19, 2019. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), left, speaks during a press conference in Washington on Nov. 19, 2019. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Border Crisis

Ms. Lee, who said she was born and raised in the border town of El Paso, Texas, said “no person is illegal.” She called for an immigration policy “that provides for due process that’s orderly and that is humane.”

She said Mr. Biden has for asked more than $1 billion dollars “to make sure that immigrants are treated fairly in the communities where,” she said, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “are pitting migrants against residents.”

Mr. Schiff said the immigration system is broken, but that immigrants who have fled violence and are seeking asylum in the U.S. deserve respect and dignity.

“It is a crisis. It is unsustainable, but we should approach this with compassion, and we should also try to get people to apply for asylum safely from their home countries,” he said.

Mr. Garvey who has advocated for closing the border, said early in the debate, “Let’s take a deep breath. We have a pathway to citizenship. Let’s enforce it.”

“First of all, if you break the law, it’s illegal. Second of all, where have you all been the last three years?” he asked.

Illegal border crossings have increased to more than ten times what they were was four years ago, and illegal immigrants are bringing drugs, cartels, and human trafficking with them, he said.

Ms. Porter said the immigration system is “a mess” because Washington has “failed decade after decade to take meaningful action on immigration.”

“The reality is we need immigrants to have a strong, stable economy and to have vibrant, diverse communities,” she said.

Ms. Porter said the U.S. needs more farm workers and service workers, as well as scientists and doctors, but also needs border security and “a lawful, orderly, humane immigration system.”

Rep. Katie Porter speaks at the "Just Majority" Supreme Court press conference in Washington on June 22, 2023. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Just Majority)
Rep. Katie Porter speaks at the “Just Majority” Supreme Court press conference in Washington on June 22, 2023. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Just Majority)

Health Care

All three Democrats backed the push for “Medicare for All,” which would eliminate private insurance and replace it with a government-run health care system.

“Medicare for All delivers the highest quality care at the lowest price point with the most patient choices,” said Ms. Porter, also blaming “Big Pharma” for high prescription drug prices and big insurance companies for denying medical claims.

Mr. Schiff said he fought for a public health care option but favors Medicare for All.

“If you are in a union and you negotiated a good policy, or you like your doctor, I think you should be able to keep your policy and keep your doctor, but I think everyone should have the right to participate in Medicare. It’s a great system,” he said.

Ms. Lee said health care should be a human right that should not be driven by profit.

“It should not be competitive. It should not be an industry,” she said. “We’ve got to have Medicare for All so that many medical decisions are made by the individual and their physician, not by the industry or insurance company.”

Mr. Garvey said the nation can barely afford to pay for the existing Medicare system “for those that deserve it,” and that “Medicare for All” would pose too great “a strain on our economy.”

“Let’s get back to competition among companies,” he said. “I don’t believe in government getting involved.”


On abortion, the Democrat trio said they support the nationwide “right” to abortion.

Mr. Schiff said he would not only like to change the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade but that he would like to “expand” it.

Ms. Porter said abortion is a “freedom issue,” and “no government that champions liberty and justice for all should restrict people from deciding for themselves if and when to have a child.”

Ms. Lee said she was “terrified” when, as a teenager, she went to Mexico for an illegal abortion at a “back alley clinic” and has fought for “reproductive freedom.” Ms. Lee said she intends to work toward abolishing the filibuster to nix the Hyde Amendment which bans federal funding for abortions.

When pressed by Politico co-moderator Ms. Mason if he would support statewide abortion rights codified in the California Constitution if elected to the Senate, Mr. Garvey said he would not vote for a federal abortion ban.

“I will always support the voice of the people of California,” he said. “The people of California have spoken, and I pledge to support that voice.”

The Economy

Candidates were asked to rate the economy for the average Californian on a scale of one to 10. Ms. Lee rated it at six, Ms. Porter at five, Mr. Schiff at seven and Mr. Garvey a “five at the most.”

“I would say it’s a five, but that’s because we have an average,” Ms. Porter said. “We have people who are experiencing a 10—CEOs of gigantic corporations, people who have generations of inherited wealth—and we have millions of Californians, including our farm workers and other essential workers for whom every paycheck is a struggle.”

Mr. Schiff said many people are struggling to pay for housing, childcare, to put food on the table, and “pay the price at the pump.”

“The problem today is not that people aren’t working. The problem today is that people are working, and they still can’t make enough to get by,” he said. “President Biden has done a lot to address this, but there’s a lot more that we need to do.”

He proposed building hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units and “dramatically expanding the low-income tax credit.”

“We need to go after prices at the pump with a windfall profits tax on oil companies,” he said. “We need to bring down food prices by enforcing antitrust laws against these grocery store mergers.”

Mr. Schiff said he would also fight to “restore collective bargaining” to raise wages.

Meanwhile, Ms. Lee said the minimum wage should be raised to a “living wage.”

“In the Bay Area, for example, $117,000 is just barely getting by for a family of four. Who can make that off of a minimum wage here in California?” she asked.

Mr. Garvey in turn said “88 percent of Californians feel that they’re losing money or breaking even,” and said career politicians “talk down” to the people who’ve elected them, telling them their lives and the economy is fine and that they should pay more taxes because they live in California.

A pedestrian walks by a store that is closing in San Francisco, Calif., on June 14, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A pedestrian walks by a store that is closing in San Francisco, Calif., on June 14, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Middle East

The debate participants also touched on Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages, leaving an estimated 25,000 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Mr. Michaelson, pointing out that Ms. Lee called for an immediate ceasefire less than 24 hours after the Oct. 7 attacks, asked her what’s to stop Hamas from launching another terror attack.

Ms. Lee said she condemns the horrific attacks of Oct. 7 and has called for a permanent ceasefire.

Israel deserves to live in peace free from Hamas and terrorist attacks, she said, but the only way Israel is going to be secure is through a permanent ceasefire and a political and diplomatic solution.

“I do believe we have to see the end game and it should be a two-state solution,” she said.

Mr. Schiff said Israel not only has the right to defend itself, but a duty to do so after the brutal murder, rape, and torture of its citizens at the hands of terrorists.

“The magnitude of that horror is still shocking to me, and I think the United States should support Israel,” he said. “We can’t leave Hamas governing Gaza. They are still holding over 100 hostages, including Americans. I don’t know how you can ask any nation to cease fire when their people are being held by a terrorist organization.”

Mr. Schiff, who also supports a two-state solution, said the U.S. should work with Israel to reduce the number of civilian casualties.

“It’s not, in my view, incompatible with human nature to grieve the loss of both innocent Palestinians as well as innocent Israelis,” he said.

Mr. Garvey said he supports Israel as the greatest U.S. ally in the Middle East and its right to fight back and defend its sovereignty.

“I stand with Israel yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “That day was atrocious. Terrorists, while Israelis slept, performed atrocities.”

Ms. Porter said she has joined millions of Americans around the country in mourning the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and has called for the release of hostages, a permanent ceasefire, resources to rebuild Gaza, and a free Palestinian state.

When Ms. Porter pushed Mr. Garvey for his stance on a two-state solution, he said that after Oct. 7, and considering the last 75 years of conflict in the region, it’s naive to think a two-state solution can be reached within even one generation.

“It won’t be until the next generation when we’ll be able to talk about that,” he said.

Schiff’s Censure

Also in the debate, Mr. Garvey called out Mr. Schiff, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for perpetuating the notion there was collusion between Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.

“I think you’ve been censured for lying,” he said.

“I was censured for standing up to a corrupt president, and you know something, I would do it all over again,” Mr. Schiff said in response.

“Sir, you lied to 300 million people. You can’t take that back,” Mr. Garvey said.

Promotional partners for the debate included California Environmental Voters Education Fund, Courage California Institute, East Bay Community Legal Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and several USC student organizations, according to Fox News.

California Republican candidates for Attorney General Eric Early (C) and Nathan Hoffman (L) with mayor pro tem of Yorba Linda Gene Hernandez (R) moderating, at a “Meet the Candidates” forum at the Yorba Linda Community Center in Yorba Linda, Calif., on March 24, 2022. (Brad Jones/The Epoch Times)
California Republican candidates for Attorney General Eric Early (C) and Nathan Hoffman (L) with mayor pro tem of Yorba Linda Gene Hernandez (R) moderating, at a “Meet the Candidates” forum at the Yorba Linda Community Center in Yorba Linda, Calif., on March 24, 2022. (Brad Jones/The Epoch Times)

Missing Viewpoints

James Bradley and Eric Early, both pro-Trump candidates who were excluded from participating in the debate, told The Epoch Times the voice of “America First” candidates was missing from the debate, even though the majority of Californian Republicans back Mr. Trump.

Mr. Early, who watched the debate at home, said the experience was “frustrating,” especially when Mr. Schiff attacked Mr. Trump over the Jan. 6 capitol riots.

“First of all, it was not an insurrection, OK? It was a riot. I don’t support what happened, but it was not an insurrection,” Mr. Early said. “If anybody committed an insurrection against this country, it was Adam Schiff and his three-to-four-year Russia hoax where he and his supporters disenfranchised the votes of 80- to 100 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump … and the follow-up bogus impeachment.”

Tensions are rising because millions of Americans are getting more and more upset by “the things that the Schiffs of the world were doing to us,” he said.

“They treat over 100 million Americans, as if we’re e somehow a bunch of idiots, who are not supposed to be upset by flat-out manipulation,” he said. “As I always say, ‘You can’t keep a lid on a boiling pot of water forever.’”

Mr. Early said the border crisis is “a disaster for our country,” and that, if elected, he will work with any other senator “and hopefully a president” who wants to send the military to the border and keep building the wall.

He also said the push for universal health care is “outrageous” and that he opposes any form of “nationalized health care” that “would cost billions and billions if not trillions of dollars.”

Both Mr. Early and Mr. Bradley agree the solution to the homeless crisis is as much about treating drug addiction and mental illness as it is about providing more affordable housing.

Mr. Early proposed creating tent encampments outside of the cities to get people off the street where they can be treated for drug addiction and mental illness and help those who are clean and capable of living on their own to find affordable housing and employment.

While he admits it “would cost billions,” he said it would be “billions less than our state has thrown out the window in the last 20 years.”

California is becoming the “homeless capital of the world,” because the state is enabling drug addiction and fueling and what he calls “the homeless industrial complex,” by funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to non-governmental agencies known as NGOs, Mr. Bradley said.

As a pro-life advocate, Mr. Bradley said abortion should not be used as a form of birth control and that allowing abortion right up until delivery is not about “reproductive rights,” as some abortion proponents claim, but “infanticide.”

He said he strongly opposes Medicare for All, because government-run health care is too costly and would hinder innovation, technology, and improvement of health care services, which “all come from the free market.”

Democrats continue to downplay the reality that illegal immigrants have broken U.S. immigration laws instead saying they should be treated with compassion, Mr. Bradley said.

But, showing compassion shouldn’t mean that immigration policies “are just basically thrown out,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol agents have been relegated to “processing paperwork” to help shuttle illegal immigrants to the airports, he said.

“That’s what’s going on,” he said, “Immigration laws need to be reformed, but Congress has been “kicking the can down the road for decades.”

“The war is not in Israel. It’s not in Ukraine. It’s at the border,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on July 13, 2009. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) speaks during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on July 13, 2009. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

The Senate Seat

The late Sen. Dianne Feinstein held the U.S. Senate seat from 1992 until her death on Sept. 29, but had announced in mid-February she wouldn’t seek reelection, opening the door to a wide array of contenders.

A total of 30 candidates are running in the race, including Republicans Denice Gary-Pandol, Sharleta Bassett; Democrats Christina Pascucci, Sepi Gilani, and Harmesh Kumar; Libertarian Gail Lightfoot; and a number of independent and no-party preference candidates.

Under the state’s “open” or “jungle” primary system, only the top two candidates—regardless of party—will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

Republicans were shut out of the last two competitive U.S. Senate elections in California, with only Democrats on the general election ballot—in 2016 when Kamala Harris defeated Loretta Sanchez, and in 2018, when Ms. Feinstein beat Kevin de Leon.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler, a labor union leader, to fill the vacancy in October. She assumed office on Oct. 3, but two weeks later announced she would not seek election for a full term in 2024.

California’s other U.S. Senate seat, held by Sen. Alex Padilla, won’t be up for grabs until the 2028 general election. Mr. Padilla, appointed by the governor to fill the vacancy left by Ms. Harris when she ran for vice-president, was elected to a full six-year term in 2022, defeating Republican Mark Meuser.


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