OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
There are more Republicans registered in California than in any other state in the union, but that doesn’t guarantee that one of them will advance to the second round of voting for the U.S. Senate seat.
According to a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times, two Democrats appear likely to face off next year to determine who will succeed longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein. This is six months before the March 5 primary.
That dynamic hasn’t changed as a result of the possibility that former Dodger and Padres legend Steve Garvey will run as a prominent Republican, according to the poll.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the poll found that Democrat Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter are nearly tied for first place with support from 20% and 17% of likely voters, respectively. The two now enjoy significant advantages over Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, another well-known Democratic challenger, who is currently polling at 7%.
Garvey, who hasn’t declared his candidacy, and Republican businessman James Bradley both received 7% of the vote. GOP candidate and attorney Eric Early currently has a 5% supporter base. A third or so of the likely voters polled indicated that they were unsure.
The two candidates who receive the most primary votes in California, regardless of their party affiliation, move on to the general election.
“The more Republicans there are [in the race], the lower their chances are of getting somebody in the top two, just because they divide each other’s support up,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Times-Berkeley poll and a longtime California pollster.
“You can change that with a lot of campaigning, but they don’t appear to be that competitive right now for the top two positions,” he added.
2024 California Senate Primary Poll
(D) Adam Schiff 20%
(D) Katie Porter 17%
(D) Barbara Lee 7%
(R) Steve Garvey 7%
(R) James Bradley 7%
(R) Eric Early 5%
(D) Lexi Reese 1%
Undecided 36%@UCBerkeley | 3,113 LV | Aug. 24-29https://t.co/KbP3SkU7VK pic.twitter.com/OzLKdnysoN
— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) September 7, 2023
In a Times-Berkeley poll conducted in May, 18% of likely voters supported the Republican candidate Early. However, throughout the summer, his popularity dwindled. Porter came in second place in that poll with 17% of the vote, followed by Schiff with 14% and Lee with 9%.
Garvey was left out of the previous poll but has been considering running all summer, according to his adviser Andy Gharakhani. According to Gharakhani, “Steve is seriously considering running in this election and engaging directly with voters on the issues they care about most.”
Lee is still less well-known than Schiff and Porter despite spending more time in the spotlight during the campaign, and 50% of likely voters have no opinion of her. Despite being the only Black candidate in the race, she receives less support from likely Black voters, receiving only 16% of the vote compared to Porter’s 21% and Schiff’s 30%.
Whether Feinstein will be able to complete her term in office is one aspect that could impact the race. She spent a week in the hospital after developing shingles in late February. She spent months in San Francisco due to the illness. Some members of her party, including Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, have called for her to resign due to the numerous Senate votes she missed, including several votes on judges.
She fell in her San Francisco home last month, forcing her to visit the hospital once more.
Gov. Gavin Newsom would have to appoint a temporary replacement if Feinstein were to leave before the end of her term. The governor promised to choose a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat were to become vacant after appointing a man to take Vice President Kamala Harris’ former Senate seat.
Although Lee’s supporters have argued that Newsom should appoint Lee if the Senate seat becomes available, Newsom hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race.
51% of likely voters said that Newsom should appoint someone who is willing to run for a full Senate term in the 2024 election if Feinstein decides to resign.