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Steve Garvey has barely campaigned for Senate in California. He’s surging anyway

Former Dodgers All-Star Steve Garvey's quixotic campaign for the U.S. Senate seat once held by the late Dianne Feinstein looks set to pay off in Tuesday's California primary. Despite Garvey's last-minute strategy of holding few public events and not paying for a single TV ad, polls show Republicans winning one of the top two spots in the bipartisan primary. It shows that they are on the verge of winning and advancing to the general election.

Political experts say Mr. Garvey was supported by two forces. One is the fame that comes from playing for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres for nearly 20 years, including the Dodgers' 1981 World Series victory, and the millions of dollars in advertising from his opponent, the top Democratic candidate. Thanks to Congressman Adam B. Schiff and his allies, Mr. Garvey's standing among Republican voters has increased.

Given California's overwhelmingly Democratic leanings, Schiff (D-Burbank) would benefit if Garvey advances to the November election. Mr. Garvey has little chance of winning in a state that has not elected a statewide Republican since 2006. Still, having Garvey's name on the November ballot could help Republicans if they can boost them in close congressional races that will determine whether they control the country. House of Representatives.

Rob Stutzman, a veteran Republican strategist and former adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, “For Mr. Schiff, he was a vessel of opportunity to avoid a tough Democratic race in November.'' . “That being said, this is also great for Republicans. It's much better for Republicans to field Senate candidates in the fall for down-ballot races.”

News leaked last spring that Garvey was meeting with Republican donors and leaders in the state as he considered a potential Senate bid. It took months for him to officially announce he was running for office, but he still has a lot of money to run a statewide campaign in California, which has some of the state's most expensive media markets. This has caused confusion among political circles as it is necessary to collect the following information. Nation.

Once in the race, Garvey did not run a traditional campaign. He has not held large rallies or public meet-and-greets with voters in the state. He spent no money on television ads, did not rent a campaign bus, and refused to give endorsement interviews with major California newspapers, including The Times, The Times, and The Times. san francisco chronicle And that sacramento bee.

In the final weekend before Election Day, leading Democrats running for Senate seats buzzed the state, with Mr. Schiff holding seven public events, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland holding four, and Rep. Barbara Lee of Irvine holding seven public events. Congresswoman Katie Porter attended twice. Mr. Garvey is at home in Palm Desert, visible to the public only through television ads paid for by Mr. Schiff and his allies, as his Democratic opponents seize one last chance to persuade voters. was completed.

Mr. Garvey's campaign rejected the idea that Mr. Schiff's message contributed to the Republican candidacy because he has not held public office.

He reaches out to voters through talk radio and local and conservative media outlets. He was mentioned 4,920 times on these forums last month, according to a report by media tracking firm Cision. On Friday, Mr. Garvey appeared on Fox News, Newsmax, NewsNation and talk radio in Fresno.

“@AdamSchiff, experts and insiders don't want to admit it and will come up with a million excuses to explain it – my campaign has gained momentum since I announced it – and only It's because of our 50-year relationship with Californians and because we care about their issues,” Garvey tweeted Saturday.

Earlier this year, Garvey traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border, participated in three televised debates, and held short-term campaign events focused on homelessness in San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Under these circumstances, it was often impossible to answer specific questions from reporters. In January, standing outside a homeless shelter in San Diego, Garvey was asked about the lack of policy prescriptions for unhoused people, a top concern for Californians. “Once we get through the primaries, we'll start digging deeper.” [issues],” He said.

“I'm not going to be here long, so give me some leeway here.”

Mr. Garvey's strategy thus far is typical of those seen in congressional races, not the typical strategy of a statewide candidate trying to reach about 22 million voters.

The last two prominent Republicans to run for California governor and U.S. Senate, Meg Whitman (no longer a Republican) and Carly Fiorina, ran extensive campaigns, sometimes reaching the presidential level. approached. They held carefully planned events around the state with prominent Republicans such as then-New Jersey Governor John Johnson. Chris Christie and then-Arizona state senator. In 2010, John McCain flew to California to support them.

Since then, the state's voter registration has shifted sharply to the left, but even lesser-known Republican candidates have taken the state by storm with high-profile campaign tactics. Businessman John Cox was stuck with a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear named Tag and an 8-foot trash ball when he ran for governor in the 2021 recall election. Neel Kashkari broke wind-up toy trains and handed out gas cards to protest. Speed ​​Rail when he ran for governor in 2014.

The last two celebrities to run for statewide office in California, Schwarzenegger in 2003 and 2006 and Caitlyn Jenner in the 2021 recall election, ran far more public campaigns than Garvey. did. Schwarzenegger entered politics after years as a bodybuilding champion and movie star. Jenner rose to fame as an Olympic athlete, then known as Bruce Jenner, before becoming a reality TV personality and coming out as transgender.

Charles Moran, chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans, a major LGBTQ+ organization in the Republican Party, said the cause was a difference in personality between Garvey and his predecessor.

“You can see the difference in wanting to be outside,” he said.

A key question is whether Mr. Garvey's minimal public engagement with voters and California's mainstream news outlets will change if he makes a general election, according to the University of Southern California, the University of California, Berkeley, and Pepperdine. said Dan Schner, a political science professor at the school.

“When he appeared in public, he had a very general demeanor and spoke in very broad terms about most of the issues he was asked. Maybe it was because he didn't know the answers, Or because he and his team recognize the need to strike a balance between drawing support from conservative hardliners and reaching beyond their base,” Schnurr said. . “I'm starting to feel like it's going to take eight months to find out.”

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