Tuesday, March 5, 2024







          Now it will be Adam Schiff vs. Steve Garvey in what could turn into a bitter runoff battle for the U.S, Senate seat long held by the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a contest sure to evoke many more baseball metaphors than any previous California campaign.


          Garvey, the former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman and National League most valuable player in 1974, has played the baseball card to the hilt, even passing out autographed horsehides at many campaign stops. On Election Night, he likened his showing to a walk-off home run.


          With his solid second-place finish in the spring primary election, he becomes the second Republican to make a Senate runoff election since the ultra-obscure Elizabeth Emken ran against Feinstein in 2012.


          Emken didn’t fare so well that November, Feinstein blasting her by a 67-33 margin in the first California Senate race run under the top two primary system, where the two leading vote-getters in the primary go into the runoff, no matter what the gap between them might have been in the first round.


          The chasm between Feinstein and Emken was even wider in that year’s primary than in the runoff.


          Garvey won his spot on this year’s general election ballot with a phlegmatic style that saw him tuck his chin into his shoulder and duck questions the way he once spit on low and outside sliders on which he didn’t want to waste a swing. It didn’t hurt that Schiff-linked committees promoted him in hopes it would give their man an easy fall matchup.


          In the campaign’s three debates, featuring Garvey and three Democratic members of Congress, he ducked away from enough questions to thoroughly earn a dig tossed at him by Irvine Rep. Katie Porter: “Once a Dodger, always a dodger.”


          But no Democrat in the primary could come close to matching Garvey’s name identification, so he wasn’t hurt while evading questions on how he might vote on various issues by saying things like “We the people will let me know on that.”


          The fact that millions of Californians knew Garvey’s name and what he did in baseball long before he decided to run for office at age 75 allowed him to solidify the approximately one-fourth of California voters who are registered Republican.


          With three major candidates splintering the Democratic vote, Garvey eased into the runoff.


          His celebrity made him what the state GOP wanted after its long string of feeble candidates or none at all in Senate runoffs. That drought was partly due to the fact that no Republican since Arnold Schwarzenegger has won statewide office here, and it is difficult for minority members of the Legislature to gain the wide recognition needed to be a serious contender for higher office in this huge state.


          Celebrities already have that, as Schwarzenegger and now Garvey proved. They need no policy experience, and like Garvey, can get away with saying they will learn on the job.


          But by the end of October, as Californians mark the mail-in ballots most now use, Schiff’s name may be at about as recognizable as Garvey’s.


          He’s led the fundraising in this campaign from the start, beginning with a fat purse moved over from his congressional campaign account, which he previously used to help other Democrats like Porter because his own Burbank-based seat was so safely Democratic.


          Schiff also became nationally known for leading two impeachment efforts against ex-President Donald Trump, who also won in his own California primary, coming near to clinching the GOP nomination for a rematch with President Biden.


          All of which means that while Garvey could parley his sports achievements and fame into a slot on the November ballot, that’s likely as far he can go.


          He stepped into deep gopher holes at times during the debates, one example coming when he accused Schiff of lying about Russian aid to Trump’s 2016 presidential run. Schiff quickly responded with a laundry list of Russian cooperation with Trump, while Garvey stood mute in response.


          The upshot is that while it might be fun to contemplate the first professional ballplayer in the Senate since Kentucky’s (and the Detroit Tigers’) Jim Bunning, it’s not apt to happen here. Schiff is likely a November shoo-in.



    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. 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 www.californiafocus.net


Suggested pullout quote: “Schiff led the fundraising in this campaign from the start.”


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