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Republican Steve Garvey’s remarkable rise to the top of the ballot in California’s U.S. Senate race

The last UC Berkeley Institute for Government Studies A poll co-sponsored by The Times shows Republican Steve Garvey with a slight lead with days to go in the primary for U.S. senator.

The poll shows a notable increase in support for the former Dodger in a race that pits three high-profile Democrats — Reps. Adam B. Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee — against each other.

Read more: Voter’s guide to the 2024 California primaries

It’s the latest indication that Garvey could win one of two contenders in the general election, which still favors the Democratic candidate.

How did Garvey get here? Here’s an explanation from the pages of The Times:

The primaries: good for Garvey

Garvey is favored by 27% of likely voters, Schiff 25% and Porter 19%. Lee (D-Oakland) gets 8%, while 12% of likely voters choose another candidate and 9% are still undecided.

In fact, Garvey and Schiff are tied because the difference is within the poll’s margin of error.

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The general election: good for Schiff

Schiff (D-Burbank) would be an overwhelming favorite to defeat Garvey in heavily Democratic California. The poll shows Schiff starting with a significant lead in a two-way matchup, 53% to 38%, with 9% undecided. In contrast, a general election between Schiff and Porter (D-Irvine) would start off tied, with four in 10 voters undecided, the poll showed.

The Garvey Wave

In a deep blue state like California, it may seem a surprise that a Republican can take the lead in primaries. But this is unusual. The Democratic primaries are highly competitive, with Porter and Schiff as major figures in the party and Lee as a popular figure on the left. So they divide the Democratic votes in the deep blue state.

Read more: Your guide to California’s U.S. Senate elections: the race to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein

In the early polls, Garvey wasn’t doing so well. But recent polls show an increase as he has become better known – especially among Republicans.

Why? Garvey’s campaign has spent just $1.4 million through mid-February, a tiny fraction of the money Schiff and Porter have raised.

But Garvey got help… from Schiff.

Main photos of two men and a woman

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, left, former Dodgers star Steve Garvey and Rep. Katie Porter (Los Angeles Times)

The advertisements

Schiff has spent more than $25 million on television advertising, most of which has portrayed the contest as a two-candidate race between him and Garvey. An outside group of Schiff allies has spent about another $10 million on a similar effort.

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“Two leading candidates for the Senate. Two very different visions for California,” he says, while later noting that Garvey is “too conservative for California” and has voted for Donald Trump twice.

Read more: Schiff and Garvey lead in the Senate race, well positioned for the runoff, polls show

Times political reporter Benjamin Oreskes explained the strategy this way: “While the message will turn off Democratic voters in the state, it could broaden the former baseball player’s appeal to Republican voters — as it is designed to do , according to two political strategists.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff.Representative Adam B. Schiff.

Representative Adam B. Schiff. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Porter denounced the Schiff tactics. “We need honest leadership, not political games,” she said.

But political pundits were not surprised.

As Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak put it, “The calculation is clear. Schiff hopes to win the Senate seat in the March 5 primary by advancing his weakest possible opponent, Garvey, to a runoff in November. Cheeky? Sure. Cynical or anti-democratic, as some critics claim? Not at all. … This is politics, after all. No cake.’

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Voter turnout

Another factor that could help Garvey on Tuesday: the expected low turnout. Political consultants expect the primary election to take place on Tuesday after mail-in ballots are returned will be a low turnout, with an electorate that is significantly older, whiter and more Republican than the state’s voter population as a whole.

Read list

Voter guide from The Times

Your guide to California’s U.S. Senate elections: the race to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Your guide to California Senate candidates’ views on housing and homelessness

A Climate Voter’s Guide to California’s Senate Elections

Recommendations from The Times editors (Opinion)

In depth: Senate candidates

Long before he took on Trump, Adam Schiff’s pursuit of tough justice defined his career

From teaming up with Black Panthers to calling for a ceasefire, Barbara Lee remains true to her beliefs

How Katie Porter uses her blunt style and experience as a single mother in her campaign for Senate

Steve Garvey touts ‘family values’ in his Senate bid. Some of his children tell a different story

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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