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How Trump propelled Schiff to the general California Senate election

Despite California's many ills and challenges, nothing will energize the state's left-wing voters in this year's Senate race more than the fear that former President Trump will return to the White House.

The ubiquity of Mr. Trump's legal woes and his dominance in the Republican presidential primaries ensure that his shadow over the 2024 election will remain until November, with Representative Adam B. Schiff in California 's already dizzying chances to become the newest U.S. senator.

As the lead prosecutor in Trump's first impeachment trial in the House, the Burbank Democrat, once dubbed a “little pencil neck” by the former president, used Trump's hostility to gain national fame. California's fierce Senate primary election will be held on Tuesday.

Mr. Schiff has already taken advantage of the disdain for Mr. Trump among most California voters to skewer his November opponent, Republican and former Dodgers star Steve Garvey, as a Mr. Trump acolyte. suggests plans to do so.

“He gained national attention because he was the face of the resistance when Trump was elected,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), who supported Schiff.

“He always made headlines because he said the right thing.”

The notoriety comes as Mr. Schiff faces two Democratic rivals, Rep. Katie Porter of Oakland and Rep. Irvine, in the race to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who represented California in the Senate since 1992. It helped defeat Congressman and Rep. Barbara Lee. Despite being the most visible Republican candidate, he finished in the top two in the primary, leading to a one-on-one contest in the November general election.

In a two-way matchup, Schiff would start with a sizable lead, 53% to 38% (9% undecided), according to a recent Times poll.

Mr. Garvey faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge in a state where Republicans have not won a statewide election since 2006 and where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. In California, President Biden defeated President Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Garvey, a former first baseman for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, voted for Trump in that year and in 2016, but will now have to consider his past support for former President Trump. Garvey has not yet said whether he voted for Trump in this year's presidential primary.

It's a balancing act for politicians in many parts of the country, but one born of necessity in states like California. The state's millions of Republican voters are ardent supporters of the former president, but they are vastly outnumbered.

California has more registered Republicans than any other state in the nation, but it also has many Republican voters, including moderates, college graduates, and suburban women, who are sometimes blanched by President Trump's antics and policies. It is also a ward. When Trump was on the ballot in 2016, Orange County voters chose a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the Great Depression.

Asked how Garvey voted in Tuesday's presidential primary, Garvey's spokesman Matt Shupe reiterated, “You'll have to ask him.”

At limited public campaign events, Garvey emphasized his amiable demeanor while raising concerns shared by many Californians about issues such as homelessness, crime and inflation. He avoided the inflammatory language favored by the former president. Mr. Garvey has been more pointed in his appearances on conservative media, saying on Fox News on Sunday that “the real war is a war against America by illegal immigrants.”

This line of attack, expected to be the centerpiece of Mr. Garvey's campaign, may rally Republicans and appeal to conservative news media audiences, but could be enough to sway California Democrats. gender is low.

But political attacks from the left could wipe some of the shine from Mr. Schiff's strong campaign.

During the primary campaign, the October 7 Hamas attack and subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza created an opening for Schiff's opponents to use the issue to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field.

Mr. Lee immediately called for an unconditional ceasefire, while Mr. Porter took a more intermediate position. Schiff rejected similar demands, instead supporting the Biden administration's efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end the war.

Protesters shouted as Adam Schiff spoke at an election party at the Avalon in Los Angeles on Tuesday. On the right is Camilo Rafel Pineda.

(Wally Scully/Los Angeles Times)

The opinion infuriated some Californians, including voters like Camilo Rafel Pineda, 25, who was waiting at Schiff's victory party Tuesday night when the politician took to the stage. He informed Schiff of it. “Let Gaza live!” he shouted so loudly that his voice became hoarse. After being escorted away, he told the Times that it was important for the nation to know the incredible human cost of this war and the country's complicity in its deaths.

Pineda, who is Jewish, said he and many of his friends voted for Lee.

He cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's support for candidates in this election as one of the reasons why Schiff chose to run instead of Lee. The political arm of the Jewish American group poured $5 million into a super PAC supporting Schiff. This group was one of several that spent nearly $21 million to attack Porter and boost Garvey in this reserve.

Pineda said funding means candidates like Lee have little chance. Schiff, who is Jewish, said his presence was essential so that he could learn how the policies he supports are affecting women and children in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is “carrying out genocide against Palestinian women and children using their Jewishness as a cover,” Pineda said. “Schiff needs to hear it as much as possible.”

In the end, it was older voters, not Pineda's contemporaries, who showed up in droves to vote. About 45% of returned ballots were from voters 65 and older, according to election research firm Political Data.

Two men's faces appear on the television screen.

A photo of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, left, and Republican challenger Steve Garvey appear on a television screen during Schiff's election night party in Los Angeles on March 5, 2024.

(Jae C. Hong/AP)

Garvey also said he opposes a ceasefire and supports Israel's response. Unlike Mr. Schiff, who believes the United States should work towards a two-state solution, Mr. Garvey said that outlook is “lackluster because one of the two states will always try to annihilate Israel.”

During the primary, Schiff's campaign spent nearly $25 million in advertising to broadcast the message that Garvey was “too conservative for California” and that Schiff was in for a tough fight against Trump. It was passed to.

Each Democratic candidate did their best to hone their integrity about who would be the best bulwark against the former president..

Still, Mr. Schiff has emerged as Mr. Trump's most powerful aide, and Mr. Trump regularly criticizes Mr. Schiff at rallies and insults him on social media. Voters regularly saw Schiff on cable news after developments in President Trump's various legal disputes.

“The biggest issue that people are focused on, especially in setting up this Trump vs. Biden rematch, is that our democracy is on the ballot, and that's what Adam is all about.” Erika Kwiatkowski Nielsen, a political strategist who helped run Standing Strong, a super PAC supporting Schiff, said:

“That trumps everything else, and that was a really important part of establishing the contrast with Garvey. We know this is how the general election is going to go, and he's a Trump supporter. He was trying to run away from his past of not supporting him despite the fact.

At rallies around the state, Schiff has spoken as much about his fight against the Republican presidential candidate as he has about homelessness and climate change.

At a campaign rally Monday at a union hall in Burbank, Schiff said, “Sometimes you can judge a man by the enemies he makes,” paraphrasing former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ta.

“By Roosevelt standards, I'm doing pretty well,” he said.

Mark Lampert and his daughter came to a campaign event in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood over the weekend for a chance to meet the Burbank state congressman.

Mr. Lampert watched Mr. Trump's first impeachment trial with eyes of faith and came away impressed by Mr. Schiff's stance against Mr. Trump.

He said one of the reasons he expected Schiff to be selected was because he was “concerned about Donald Trump.”

Mr. Porter, Mr. Schiff's most formidable Democratic rival, has sought to destroy Mr. Schiff's image by attacking him for accepting money from corporate political action committees. She called the money “dirty” and symbolized why voters despise career politicians. This was consistent with how she framed the race as a contest about generational change that was meant to “shake up Washington.”

However, it seems to have had little effect.

On Sunday, Mr. Porter entertained a packed crowd at Manny's, a community space and cafe in San Francisco's Mission District. Among them was Anthony Lepe, 67. Although his wife supported Mr. Porter, Mr. Porter was leaning toward Schiff, and that had mostly to do with following his lawyer. Through the Trump era.

“He stood up to Trump,” Lepe said. “That's the most important thing we need right now.”

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