Monday, October 30, 2023








        Often, when California’s Republican Party lacks depth and a record of achievement among its elected politicians, the state GOP turns to celebrity candidates.


        So it was in 1966, when Republican movie star  Ronald Reagan defeated two-term Democratic Gov. Edmund (Pat) Brown. Soon after, onetime actor George Murphy knocked off the appointed Democratic Sen. Pierre Salinger, once President Kennedy’s press secretary.


It happened again when the party used noted linguist and former San Francisco State University President S.I. Hayakawa to defeat incumbent Sen. John Tunney (himself the son of celebrity boxer Gene Tunney). It happened a fourth time in 2003, when muscleman actor Arnold Schwarzenegger ousted second-term Gov. Gray Davis in a recall election.


        Now the GOP hopes yet another celebrity can come to its rescue. That’s one meaning of the mid-October entry of former Dodgers and Padres first baseman Steve Garvey into the race for the U.S. Senate seat long held by the late Dianne Feinstein.


        If Garvey is most similar to any of the prior successful Republican celebrity politicians, it is Schwarzenegger, whose campaign was rocked shortly before Election Day 2003 by widespread allegations of marital infidelity and womanizing, some turning out to be accurate.


        Garvey, a Donald Trump supporter running in the state which twice provided Trump’s opponents with their margins of victory in the national popular vote, hopes to become the first California Republican since Schwarzenegger in 2008 to win statewide office.


        At 74, he becomes the second-oldest candidate in a race that so far has been dominated by three Democratic members of Congress – Adam Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland.


        Unlike the others, who announced campaigns around the time in 2022 that Feinstein said she would not seek reelection, Garvey took his time getting in.


        He first hinted he would run, then pulled back into an observer stance. When Garvey declared formally in early October, he took few controversial stances. He said he opposes abortion (pleasing many Republicans) but insisted he would not vote for federal laws to restrict the practice.


     This amounts to a non-position. On most other issues, he refused to endorse national and state Republican stances, saying “This is a Steve Garvey campaign for all the people and building a consensus.” But he’s made it hard to see so far what he means by a consensus.


        That vague hesitation to jump onto Republican positions like opposing new gun controls and “outing” transgender schoolchildren to their parents differs from Schwarzenegger, who simply rejected many GOP positions and came to be reviled by some party activists as a RINO – Republican in name only.


        Another big difference between Garvey and Schwarzenegger, the two major athlete celebrities who have run here, is that Garvey’s history of womanizing has had far more formal confirmation than Schwarzenegger’s did until after he left office.


        Even though it’s been many years since any woman he was involved with sued him, it seems fair to bring up the subject because Garvey’s entire positive reputation and campaign stem from his even longer-ago athletic achievements as the only player to star on pennant-winning teams with both major league franchises in Southern California.


        Court documents filed in one action against him cited DNA testing that proved he was the biological father of at least one child of a former sex partner.


        That lawsuit portrayed Garvey as beginning and continuing relationships with several women at the same time he asked one of them to marry him.


        He admitted that he impregnated at least two women he never married, saying “in both cases, I was led to believe that I wasn’t responsible for birth control.”


        He told NBC News in the late 20th Century that “I’ll live up to the moral obligations which I feel strongly about because I am a Christian.”


        Sexual infidelity did not harm Schwarzenegger at the polls and has not hurt current Gov. Gavin Newsom there, either, perhaps because he has abjectly apologized for his affair with the wife of a top aide.


        So womanizing also may not harm Garvey, as he clearly hopes memories of his slugging exploits will carry him into the November runoff election.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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