CA Senate: Adam Schiff and Steve Garvey advance as Katie Porter fades

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LOS ANGELES — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a scourge of Donald Trump and his MAGA movement, on Tuesday successfully pulled Republican Steve Garvey into November, boxing out progressive Rep. Katie Porter. The setup ensures what’s expected to be an easy run for Schiff to the U.S. Senate from California.

Garvey, a first-time candidate and former Major League Baseball standout, led the field alongside Schiff. Schiff successfully harnessed his starring role in the first Trump impeachment to outraise the entire field by multiples, then turned on the spending spigot to run millions in TV ads promoting Garvey to Republican voters.

Porter, from a swing district in Orange County and a protege of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, had kept the race close until the final six weeks. But she opted not to directly confront Schiff on the airwaves, where her message of promising to shake up the Senate and crusade against corporations was drowned out by Schiff’s anti-Trump profile and the money he raised as a result.

If Schiff is elevated to the Senate in November, as expected, the state will be without a woman senator for the first time in more than three decades. Schiff also will be the first white man from the progressive and diverse state to serve in the chamber in 32 years. He also appears to be the first Jewish man to represent California in the Senate, though Pierre Salinger, a senator in 1964, had a Jewish father.

The race for the open seat that was held for decades by the late Sen. Dianne Feinsteinwas relatively drama-free despite showcasing a slew of Democratic congress members: Schiff and Porter, but also the longtime progressive hero Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland. There were brief interludes of tension — such as when California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed labor leader and consultant Laphonza Butler to the seat after Feinstein’s death last fall. But Butler declined to run, restoring the race to the natural order.

Garvey proved to be the x-factor, joining the contest late and doing little in the way of events and fundraising. But he started to consolidate Republican support, owing to the familiarity around his playing career in the 1970s and ’80s. Although Garvey didn’t spend money of his own, Schiff punched up Garvey’s presence with well over $10 million in TV ads about him. That appears to have made the difference.

Porter, meanwhile, responded to the TV ads by continuing to promote the central pillars of her campaign. She tried to remind voters of her fighter persona in Congress, where she toted a little whiteboard and went viral with her regular grillings of CEOs and corporate leaders.

But as Garvey rose in public and private polls, her support remained relatively stagnant. In addition to the millions spent by Schiff’s campaign, money also poured in from his super PAC. And late in the contest, another super PAC funded by cryptocurrency billionaire investors spent upward of $10 million to slam Porter.

Lee struggled to raise money and garner attention, despite centering the war in Gaza by being the first — and most vocal — candidate to call for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Lee last fall had also tried for a burst of momentum by claiming the endorsement of the California Democratic Party, but fell short when Schiff blocked her.

Schiff, elected to the House in 2000 by flipping a Los Angeles-area seat against the backdrop of the Bill Clinton impeachment, ran on his aggressive prosecution of Trump in Washington as well as his record of delivering for California.

One notable break with Porter, perhaps surprisingly, came over congressional earmarks — federal spending for district projects. She opposed earmarks, arguing that this sort of spending was a subtler form of corruption. Schiff, for his part, seized on the matter and painted Porter as the type of candidate more interested in academic hectoring than reality-based results.

He amassed not only money but also big-name supporters, led by House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. He had a record-breaking second quarter in 2023, and kept putting up eye-popping numbers. Schiff also turned in serviceable performances in the three televised primary debates, and ran a cautious and mistake-free campaign.

With the Garvey-promoting ads, it was enough to boost the two of them into the fall. Now, one of the only mysteries left will be how Schiff decides to spread around all the money he has left over.