LOS ANGELES– Former baseball MVP Steve Garvey joined the race Tuesday to succeed the late California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, giving Republicans a star turn on the ballot in a heavily Democratic state where the GOP has not won a Senate race for 35 years.
Garvey, 74, launched his campaign with a video rich in baseball images that recalls his career as a perennial All-Star having played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. It also indicated he would lean toward the political center in a party dominated by former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate who could share the election with Garvey next year.
“I never played for the Democrats or the Republicans or the independents. I played for all of you,” Garvey said in the video, in which he also alluded to the issues vexing the state, from no- shelter from crime. “This will be a common sense campaign.”
In an interview, Garvey said he had voted for Trump in the past, but had not yet decided on his choice in the 2024 presidential election. He did not respond directly when asked if he considered himself part of the Trump wing of the GOP. Trump lost California in landslides in 2016 and 2020, although he enjoyed the support of millions of Republican and conservative voters in the state.
“I’m running Steve Garvey’s campaign,” he said. “We need to bring people together again.”
Garvey’s entry into a race gives Republicans a name recognized by many Californians, even if he may be unknown to millions of young voters. He played in his last major league game in 1987 after an 18-year major league career, and he was National League MVP in 1974.
Still, he will face the challenges of any first-time candidate: raising millions of dollars for television advertising and building an organization to mobilize voters among a field of candidates that already includes Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee. The race could be even more complicated if Sen. Laphonza Butler, who Gov. Gavin Newsom recently appointed to this seat after Feinstein’s death, chooses to run.
He has adopted a series of familiar Republican positions, including calling for a temporary closure of the border with Mexico, at a time when polls indicate widespread frustration with President Joe Biden’s handling of immigration. He criticized the state’s push to ban the sale of most new gas-powered cars by 2035, saying “it’s not realistic.”
On abortion, an issue Democrats hope to galvanize the party’s base after the Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Garvey said he does not support an abortion ban in nationally.
“The people of California have spoken out (…) on abortion and, as their representative, I am committed to always making the voice of the people heard,” he declared. Asked if he supported abortion rights, he added: “The people have spoken and I will be committed to upholding them.”
As a Republican, he inevitably starts with a long shot. Democrats hold every statewide office and dominate legislative and congressional delegations. Republicans — who outnumber Democratic voters in the state about 2-to-1 — have not won a race for statewide office since 2006.
California holds a primary that sends the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of political party, to the general election. In California’s last two Senate elections, Republican candidates performed so poorly that only Democrats entered the November ballot. The last Republican to win a Senate race in the state was in 1988.
However, given the large number of candidates who will split the vote in the March 5 primary, it is possible that Garvey advances to the November general election. He would need to consolidate Republican and conservative voters behind his candidacy, and he is competing with attorney Eric Early, who previously ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general and Congress.
Garvey confirmed in June that he was considering entering the Senate race and his candidacy was widely expected.
Garvey previously flirted with the possibility of entering politics, most notably after his retirement from baseball, when he discussed a possible run for the U.S. Senate, but never became a candidate.
In the interview, he said he was motivated to run this time by the “quality of life stress” that has spread across the state, and added that his campaign would be anchored in reducing crime, improving education and fighting inflation and soaring gas. prices.
He blamed long-term school closures during the pandemic for declining student test scores.
For young children, prolonged school closures “have not only hindered their learning journeys, but also their social interactions,” he said. “We are behind in both areas.”
When Garvey confirmed in June that he was considering entering the race, Early released a statement saying the former baseball star “had more personal baggage than Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner,” an apparent reference to sex scandals of the 1980s that tainted Garvey’s reputation as “Mr. Clean”, a nickname that referred to his buttoned-up image from his Dodger days. At the time, he admitted to having two children with women he was not married to.
When asked about this period, Garvey said: “I think our life is a journey. I think there are chapters. Of course, I went through a difficult time here and there. I learned from it .And I think I got stronger.”