Adam Schiff Secures Top Status in California’s 3rd US Senate Debate

Adam Schiff Secures Top Status in California’s 3rd US Senate Debate

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) waves to supporters at a Senate campaign rally in Burbank, Calif., on Feb. 11, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 2/25/2024

Each political campaign presents its own challenges. Aside from the actual issues, campaigns must forge strategies for victory.
All along, Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff has been the one to beat in the race for U.S. Senate from California. That was not changed by the Feb. 20 debate among the top four candidates, sponsored by NBC4 and Telemundo 52 at Universal City. The moderator was NBC4’s Colleen Williams, with questioners Conan Nolan of NBC4 and Alejandra Ortiz, Telemundo’s chief reporter.
Take a look at the latest Emerson College poll, conducted Feb. 16–18 and released the day of the debate. Mr. Schiff is well in the lead at 28 percent, followed by Republican Steve Garvey at 22 percent, Democratic Reps. Katie Porter at 16 percent and Barbara Lee at 9 percent, and Republican Eric Early at 2 percent.
California has a Top Two system rewarding only two finalists, regardless of party, or no party, so No. 3 will be out.
The most strategic candidate has been Mr. Schiff. As I wrote in my Feb. 12 Epoch Times article, “What Political Flyers Show Us About California’s March 5 Election,” his plan is to promote Mr. Garvey for the second slot in November. The ads highlighted Mr. Garvey’s two votes for Mr. Trump, although Mr. Garvey has gone out of his way this year to avoid saying whether he would do so again.
Given Republicans today have almost no chance of winning a statewide race, Mr. Schiff after winning March 5 will likely coast the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Ms. Porter has finally figured out what was going on. Joe Garofoli reported Feb. 16, “Porter’s campaign has started running online ads describing Republican attorney Eric Early as ‘MAGA’s Man in California,’ contrasting him with Republican former baseball player Steve Garvey, who has declined to say whether he would vote for Donald Trump again.”
One ad on Facebook urged: “Who’s the real Republican threat in the California Senate race? MAGA Republican Eric Early proudly stands with Donald Trump, while Steve Garvey refuses to tell us who he supports.”
The problem is, almost no one knows who Mr. Early is. And even if his 2 percent is doubled to 4 percent, it wouldn’t matter. Still, it’s the only realistic strategy she has.
Rep. Katie Porter speaks at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2023. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Just Majority)

Rep. Katie Porter speaks at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2023. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Just Majority)

Dodger Garvey at the Debate

In the debate, Mr. Schiff’s blatant promotion of Mr. Garvey and the latter’s refusal to endorse Mr. Trump did come up. The former Dodger replied he was not concerned with “one American,” meaning Mr. Trump, but with “38 million Californians and 330 million Americans.” So he’s still not taking a position.
Ms. Porter quickly retorted, “Look, the reality is, Mr. Garvey has been unclear with regards to Donald Trump. He’s even said he might vote for Joe Biden. There is a Republican that’s dangerous in this race, and that’s Trump Republican Eric Early, who has said he will be 100 percent MAGA at all times.”
The problem is, even if Mr. Early’s 2 percent doubles to 4 percent, it wouldn’t matter.

Foreign Policy Discussion

As I noted in my reporting the two previous debates, there was little discussion of the Senate’s main function: foreign policy. It’s only the Senate that holds hearings on, and confirms or denies, nominees for the cabinet positions of secretary of State, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security; and the heads of the FBI and CIA. It also crafts, along with the House, the Defense and other budgets, as we’re seeing in the wrangling over aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
We got a little bit more this time. Military readiness came up, in particular the Army’s failure on recruitment goals and Air Force readiness problems. Ms. Porter said, “There’s no doubt that the world is facing new dangers and our country is facing new threats. I have led on issues, for example, on the threats we are facing in the Indo-Pacific from China and other regional powers. This is a time to be investing in diplomacy, yes.
“We have the strongest military in the world. And I particularly want to support the amazing people, like my brother, who step up and who serve, who are veterans and servicemembers. And we need to recruit our best and brightest into the military. At the same time, we have to make sure that’s where our tax dollars are going, that actually make us safer. Not just to help huge corporations get richer through the Pentagon budget.
“And we have seen a number of failures in this regard. And so I think it’s really important that we separate out those issues. How do we keep our men and women safe? How do we keep our country safe? That needs someone who’s going to look forward, look at the future, and understand the threats that are coming, from AI, from cyber, and from new kinds of technology.”
That sure wasn’t saying much with a lot of words.
Steve Garvey attends an event at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2022. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Steve Garvey attends an event at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2022. (Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Mr. Garvey said, “National defense is our single most important issue. Without that, everything else is irrelevant. Peace through strength. We have to remember that we’re the torch-bearer for democracy around the world. We have to have policy that shows our enemies that we’re serious, that we will address every issue when approached. But we also have to make sure our military is capable.
Technology-wise, militarily, we have to have the best equipment. So we need to make sure that our military is fully funded at all times.”
Another non-answer.
Ms. Lee said, “I am the daughter of a veteran—25 years. He served in World War II and Korea. Served in Japan. He was a proud patriot. He told me over and over and over again to make sure our readiness was intact, but also that we protect our troops. And let me tell you, the Pentagon budget is excessive. It’s $890 billion. We need to cut at least $100 billion out of the military budget, and put it into readiness, and put it into our troops.
“I lead each and every year to get passed the People Over Pentagon Act. And in the Senate I will do that. Military contractors are scamming the taxpayers. Recently we tried and I worked with Republicans to claw back money that weapons dealers really stole from the Pentagon in terms of tax dollars.”
This actually was a good area to discuss, but not much more was said on it in this debate. What, exactly, are our foreign-policy priorities, what defense requirements are needed to meet them, and what can be cut or ended that isn’t needed? Although Ms. Lee apparently thought increasing readiness would mean shifting funds from the Defense budget, when it’s the same thing.
Mr. Schiff said his father joined the Army at the end of World War II. “He raised his two sons to have great respect for those who wear the uniform. We have a challenge recruiting because we don’t pay our service members enough for the dangers that they have to face and their families have to face. And there are areas to cut in the Pentagon budget.
“I remember meeting with President Obama to discuss the deficit and debt problem, and one of my colleagues used the occasion to argue for more F-22s, something the Pentagon said they didn’t need, and we couldn’t afford. And the president said, ‘You know, if you want to handle the deficit, I need to make national security decisions based on national security. And that’s what we need to do.”
Again, a non-answer about the most important topic. Although family members have served, not one of the four candidates served in the military.
Unfortunately, the moderators did not bring up the real reason recruitment is so low. As Eddie Gallagher and Dena Cruden wrote in December in The Hill, “Some 77 percent of fighting-aged Americans would be ineligible for military service. ... The lingering impacts of politicized vaccine mandates, as well as story after story about troops being brainwashed with divisive ideologies like woke gender theory and critical race theory, are damaging morale and discouraging potential volunteers. President Biden’s Pentagon brass seem more interested now about making sure that our military personnel are socially indoctrinated than that they are lethal.
“This obsession with radical politics is diverting our military from its primary purpose, its core mission: to confront and defeat America’s enemies and defend our homeland, our interests and our way of life.
“The military is trying to correct the problem by throwing more money at it in the form of bonuses. But all the money in the world is not worth doing a job you do not want to do.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), speaks at a press conference to call for reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court in Oakland, Calif., on May 21, 2023. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for Demand Justice)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), speaks at a press conference to call for reforms to the U.S. Supreme Court in Oakland, Calif., on May 21, 2023. (Kimberly White/Getty Images for Demand Justice)

Ukraine and Taiwan Aid

The debate also included up or down questions on military aid. There should have been a lot more discussion. Mr. Nolan stipulated the three Democrats would have voted for the bill the Senate passed for $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Then he asked Mr. Garvey’s position. He replied, “Yes.”
Ms. Lee spoke up, “It would depend on what else was in that bill. I’m not sure I would have voted for it.”
Mr. Nolan pointed out President Biden said he would deploy U.S. troops to aid Taiwan if there was an invasion by Communist China. Ms. Lee said, “No, I would not support that,” but was not allowed to give her reason. Mr. Schiff said, “I support the president’s position.” Ms. Porter said, “I would support safeguarding us from the threat of China.” Mr. Garvey said, “No troops on the ground.”
Mr. Nolan then asked about a resolution saying we will not support a peace agreement for Gaza so long as Hamas is in control. Ms. Lee said, no, because a cease-fire was “the only way Israel will be secure.”
Mr. Schiff said yes. Ms. Porter said no. Mr. Garvey said, “No cease-fire.”

Conclusion: Mr. Schiff Will Win

In the race for U.S. Senate from California, Ms. Porter hoped her strong support from feminist groups and taking on big corporations would push her into the lead. But she had a problem: Mr. Schiff enjoyed an even bigger reputation in California and the nation for opposing President Donald Trump, especially for leading the first hearing that impeached the president.
A big problem remains the anti-democratic Top Two system. We should have had two sets of debates in the primary, one for Democrats, one for Republicans. The three Democrats mostly are alike, but ought to have been able to clash over their differences.
Mr. Garvey should have gone up against Mr. Early, who like most Republicans, but unlike Mr. Garvey, is a big Trump supporter.
Mr. Schiff has the poll numbers, the campaign cash, and the endorsements heading toward March 5. He likely will win—and get his wish of Mr. Garvey as patsy.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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