Friday, June 30, 2023






        The results of the latest polling of the ongoing race for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by veteran Democrat Dianne Feinstein were startling – but eminently predictable.


        As early as mid-May, this column forecast that the entry of even one Republican into the contest would throw Democratic thinking about the race into a trash can. It has.


        Yes, UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies surveys often deviate somewhat from the actual election results, but they provide a general idea of what’s going on.


        And so, even as the three Democratic Congress members seeking to replace Feinstein campaigned with happy faces at their party’s springtime state convention in Los Angeles, the poll was demolishing one of their cherished presumptions – the notion that the primary election set for early next March would reduce the field from three Democrats to two, and no Republican need apply.


        Now it may be time for one or two of those congresspeople – Adam Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland – to swallow some pride and rethink their prospects.


        For the latest Berkeley IGS polling actually had the first Republican into the field, Eric Early, in the lead. This was before retired baseball star Steve Garvey, 74, indicated interest in a GOP bid.


        Early drew support from 19 percent of likely California voters in the poll to 18 for Porter, 14 for Schiff and 9 for Lee.


        The three Democrats represent diverse constituencies in the Democratic Party, but all look quite similar when compared to Early, a Donald Trump supporter who lost handily to Schiff in a 2020 congressional contest, or the longtime conservative Garvey.


        It’s not that Early has any more appeal among Californians now than he did in his several previous futile campaigns. But his entry into this race gave loyal Republicans someone to vote for other than a Democrat, which few wanted to do.


        Now, if the three Democrats want to assure a Democrat-on-Democrat race for the Senate, like the ones California saw in 2016 and 2018, they may have to make sure Garvey runs and fractures the GOP vote.


        That would lessen the total for either Republican, much as Democrats are now splintered among their three choices. Which means there still is a chance at an all-Democratic runoff election in November 2024.


        If there should be just one GOP entrant, the primary becomes a dead serious battle between the three Democrats for what could be only remaining one slot on the general election ballot, rather than the two they’ve expected.


        Would that leave Schiff – even more of a Democratic hero now that Republicans in Congress censured him than when he was merely prominent for ramrodding two Trump impeachments through the House of Representatives –  the lone Democrat? His impeachment work won support from many Democrats and the undying enmity of Trump’s base, which remains loyal to the ex-president through his many legal troubles, including a jury finding him financially liable for sexually manhandling a woman in a department store changing room and defaming her afterward.


        Would it be Porter, who won reelection last year by a narrow margin after redistricting made her Orange County district less friendly than before to Democrats? Porter will get support from many of the women who make up the majority of Democratic voters and want the seat to go to a youthful liberal female who might serve for decades.


        Would it be Lee, who could give California a Black woman senator to essentially replace Vice President Kamala Harris, who gave up her Senate seat when she won national office? Lee, best known for her steadfast opposition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would likely not serve very long, as at 76, she is just 14 years younger than the apparently age-ravaged Feinstein.


        This picture could change not only if Garvey sticks around, but also if Feinstein steps down before her term ends and Gov. Gavin Newsom, as promised, names a Black woman – Lee or someone else – to replace her.


        The essence is that Early’s entry and relatively strong initial showing changed things considerably for the three major Democratic candidates, putting a question mark after one of their most cherished scenarios and proving again the folly of being guided by any kind of political assumption.


Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

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