Mar 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Super Tuesday's most compelling race is in California

California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter (left), Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee at a voter forum for U.S. Senate candidates

California Democratic Reps. Katie Porter (left), Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee at a voter forum in October in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Tuesday night's biggest stakes are in California, where two prominent House Democrats are scrambling after a late surge by a Republican former Dodgers star.

Why it matters: Both Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff would have the opportunity to channel their national profiles into political stardom in the Senate, particularly in a second Trump administration.

  • Schiff could solidly position himself as the premier foil to a second Trump administration.
  • Porter would probably join the economic reform wing of the Senate and scrutinize Trump picks for the Fed, Treasury and Commerce.

Between the lines: Schiff would be a more mainstream Democratic voice in the Senate. He's endorsed by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic power brokers.

  • Porter would be one of the most progressive senators, as she's endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and many progressive organizations.
  • The seat is currently held by Sen. Laphonza Butler, who was appointed after the death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Butler is not running in the November election.

Zoom in: California runs a nonpartisan top-two primary, meaning a long and ugly fight if two Democrats qualify and a relatively easy win for a Democrat if a Republican makes the cut.

  • Schiff leads the RealClearPolitics average of polls in the race, followed by Republican Steve Garvey, who played first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the 1970s and '80s.
  • Porter is running a close third, and Rep. Barbara Lee is a distant fourth.
  • Schiff and a super PAC that backs him have spent millions attacking Garvey in an end-around way to push him into the top two, CNN reports.

The bottom line: The Senate seat is a catapult to massive potential power, prestige and visibility, so one can understand why two highly ambitious Democrats are treating it with such high stakes.

Go deeper