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California Democrats Split On Schiff And Lee Endorsement In Senate Race

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


California Democrats couldn’t decide who to back in the state’s important US Senate race; none of the candidates got 60% of the votes of convention delegates.

With 40% and 41% of the vote, respectively, Democrat Reps. Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee got the most support from the convention to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2024. Out of the 2322 delegates who voted on Saturday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) got 16% of the votes. Another 2% chose not to back anyone in the race.

The candidates are running in California’s open top-two primary on March 5, which comes before the general election on November 5, the Washington Examiner reported.

The convention results from the weekend, which were announced on Sunday, show that the delegates who went to the three-day event in Sacramento were more liberal politically.

A poll from earlier this month by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that Schiff was trailing Porter with 17% of likely voters in the state supporting her. This number hasn’t changed since the summer. The former head of the House Intelligence Committee had 16%, down from 20% in August. Steve Garvey, a Republican who announced his candidacy last month and used to play professional baseball, had 10%, while Lee only had 9%.

Businessman James Bradley and lawyer Eric Early got 7% and 4% of the vote, respectively. The other two Democrats, tech executive Lexie Reese and TV anchor Christina Pascucci, got only 1% each. Almost a third (30%) of Californians who answered were not sure.

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The poll shows that voters under 50 like Porter more than Schiff, while voters over 65 like Schiff more than Porter. Among California’s black voters, Lee is the clear favorite.

“While Garvey’s candidacy seems to have made a splash among the state’s Republican voters, Porter and Schiff are still neck and neck at this point and remain ahead of the rest of the field,” IGS co-director G. Cristina Mora said at the time.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to temporarily fill Sen. Feinstein’s empty seat may have hurt Schiff’s bid for the U.S. Senate.

After Feinstein’s passing, Newsom announced that EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler would take over for her. Butler is eligible to seek reelection to the Senate for a full term in 2019.

The current frontrunner in the primary, Schiff, may end up having to challenge an entrenched incumbent if he makes it to the general election in the same year. Butler’s interim position will end in January 2025.

Since Feinstein has held the seat since 1992, if Butler decided to run for it, she would be at a disadvantage because Feinstein is already in office and has many political connections. EMILY’s List is a political action committee that raises money for pro-choice Democratic women candidates. Since 2021, Butler has been running the show.

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Several high-profile California Democrats have entered the race to succeed Feinstein.

Some leftists are pushing for white Democrats to drop out of California’s Senate race, or they aren’t committed to diversity.

Author and podcast host Steve Phillips, however, argued that they should let U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a black woman, take the lead to show they “care about diversity.”

“Time and again, it has been shown that black women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Democrats across the country agree that black women are badly underrepresented in our nation’s leadership. Schiff and Porter are white; Lee is a black woman. The right course is clear, isn’t it?” he wrote in his opinion column.

According to a Berkley IGS poll released on September 7, Schiff has 20% of the vote, making him the clear favorite in the crowded primary field. Porter comes in second with 17%, and Lee comes in third with 7 percent.

Steve Garvey and James Bradley, both Republicans, got 7% of the vote. Eric Early, also a Republican, got 5%, and Lexie Reese, a Democrat, got 1 percent.

Real Clear Politics data found that other polls show Schiff ahead of Porter by anywhere from 1 to 5 points. Lee comes in third, with a lead that is mostly in the single digits.

But Schiff’s checkered past might catch up with him, especially after a Politico report detailed Schiff’s history of cultivating powerful interests and rewarding them with taxpayer money when it served his political ambitions.

A Politico analysis found that Schiff earmarked some $10 million to go to defense contractors who have donated to his campaigns.

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