California will be without a female senator for the first time in 32 years

LOS ANGELES — California was the first state in the nation to have two women senators.

Next year, it won’t have any.

Primary voters narrowed the California Senate field Tuesday to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey, knocking Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee out of the running. Whoever wins in November — most likely, Schiff, given California’s overwhelmingly blue electorate — will join Sen. Alex Padilla in Washington, ending the three-decade streak of a woman representing California in the nation’s highest legislative body.

It’s a jarring about-face for a state that has long been considered a trailblazer in gender equality — having elected Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in 1992, in what was known as the Year of the Woman.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to think about a vacuum in leadership at the highest levels,” said Robin Swanson, a Sacramento-based Democratic consultant who started the non-profit organization, Win Like a Girl. “It’s especially troubling in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and how the things that we thought were in place for 50 years are now under attack.”

Following Feinstein’s death last fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed longtime EMILYs List head Laphonza Butler to the seat, making good on his yearsold promise to choose a Black woman for such a vacancy. But shortly after her swearing in, Butler said she would not enter the highly contested race for a full term.

Butler’s impending departure and Lee’s failed campaign also mean there’s a chance the Senate will be again without a Black woman in its ranks, though there are strong candidates in Maryland and Delaware.

Despite the stakes, gender was not a central issue in the campaign. Neither Porter nor Lee ran heavily on it, choosing instead to focus on topics like political corruption and the war between Israel and Hamas.

“We all know” that she’s a woman, said Vicki Schulte, who has volunteered for the congresswoman since her first campaign in 2017, speaking at a Porter party in Long Beach shortly after the race call. “Did it really need to be said? But maybe it should’ve been.”

Porter took one jab against Schiff in a January debate hosted by POLITICO and Fox 40 — knocking him for listing “abortion” under his policy accomplishments, given the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, as she referred to him as a “congressman.”

“As a mother of a young daughter I do not feel like abortion rights have been accomplished,” she said.

At her Tuesday party, addressing supporters who moments earlier had been chanting her first name, Porter told the crowd, “Someone close said to me, ‘As a woman, if you wait your turn, you won’t get one.’ What I found out over the last 6 years, is that by and large that is true.”

Melanie Mason contributed to this report.