Support for California Republican Steve Garvey growing ahead of primary, Senate poll shows

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Support for California Republican Steve Garvey has grown in the solidly Democratic Senate race, according to a poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and Los Angeles Times released Friday.

The poll’s findings hint that the former Los Angeles Dodgers star could finish second in the March 5 primary if Republican voters and others continue to coalesce around him.

As interest and awareness of the election grows, such as through the upcoming debate between four of the candidates this month, that becomes a greater possibility, noted the poll’s director.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, still leads all contenders in the race to succeed late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ahead of the March 5 primary. In the race for second, Garvey has closed up on Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, said the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies’ poll, Mark DiCamillo.

“The open question really is who’s going to be second, and our poll is showing Katie Porter still ahead of Garvey, although there has been movement toward Garvey in each of our polls,” he told The Times, which sponsored the poll.

Support for Garvey nearly doubled since the Institute’s August poll while Porter’s numbers stayed about the same. Schiff and Porter had been nearly tied in the Institute’s October poll.

In the poll released Friday, Schiff led with 21% of likely voters. Porter gathered 17% while Garvey had 13%.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, got 9% of likely voters’ support. Other respondents picked different candidates or were undecided.

The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to the election in November. Because Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, California seems likely to pick a Democrat for the Senate slot. On paper, having Garvey succeed in March could give a Democrat an easier win in November.

“Representative Schiff appears to be in a good position with respect to the top two primary, but it will be a very different race in November if his opponent is another Democrat, like Porter or Lee, who receive greater support among strong liberals and young voters, or if he opposes conservative Republican Garvey,” said Eric Schickler, poll co-director.

“With so many voters undecided, there is still considerable space for a range of outcomes in the primary,” he said.

There are two races on the March 5 primary ballot to succeed Feinstein — one for a full six-year term to begin in January 2025 and another to finish the remainder of her term. Sen. Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve until a candidate is elected through the special election. Butler is not running for the seat.

There are fewer candidates in the special election, and the poll indicated a tighter race for the top two. Schiff gathered support from 21% of likely voters in the poll; Porter got 18%, Garvey had 17%, Lee had 12% and Republican Eric Early had 11%.

DiCamillo said that the smaller field for the special election highlights how Garvey’s support grows when Republicans fall in line behind a candidate. This, he noted, means Garvey could finish in the top two in March for as Republican voters consolidate.

Garvey, Schiff, Porter and Lee will debate Jan. 22, hosted by Politico.

“There’s an opportunity for him to coalesce the Republican votes to come his way, certainly,” DiCamillo said. “I think the debate will help in that regard.”

The Berkeley poll surveyed 8,199 California registered voters, including 4,470 likely voters. It was conducted online from Jan. 4 to 8 in English and Spanish. Pollsters estimated a sampling error of approximately 2 percentage points in either direction.

The poll also queried how views on the Israel-Hamas war tied to candidates.

Schiff, who has backed the Biden administration’s strategy,which has not recommended a cease-fire, and Garvey say the U.S. should continue sending military aid to Israel.

Porter and Lee have called for a cease-fire. Lee opposes further military aid to Israel and Porter wants to reassess assistance.

About 80% of Garvey supporters were more sympathetic to Israel than Palestinians. Lee supporters were more sympathetic to Palestinians by more than 2 to 1. About half of Schiff’s backers and 40% of Porter’s said they were equally sympathetic to both.