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Election 2024: US Senate candidates enter ‘go mode’ with less than a week until California’s primary

California’s U.S. Senate candidates are embarking on a last-dash spending and speaking frenzy in a final attempt to win over Golden State voters before the March 5 primary

With the latest polls indicating that up to 17% of voters remain undecided in this race, this is a key window for candidates to clinch votes in hopes of landing in the top two and advancing to the November runoff.

This week is perhaps most critical for Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, and Republican ex-Dodger Steve Garvey, who have been duking it out for second place in the polls. However, for Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, this week will be a test to see if he can translate those leads in the polls into actual votes, and for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, it will be a last chance to pick up a progressive push to propel her from behind. 

It’s officially “go mode” for all candidates — not just the top four — and they’re barnstorming the state at a rapid clip to meet people and buying more ad space to make a final impression on voters. 

But just what are candidates’ final pitches and how are they getting it across? Let’s take a look. 

Steve Garvey

Garvey has emerged as one of the top candidates in the race despite entering late and spending comparatively little on ads. Both his fundraising and polling have picked up steam in the last six weeks, and he intends on going all out this week to appeal to voters.

“Steve is spending the final week before the election letting Californians know he is fighting for them,” said campaign strategist Matt Shupe. “His goal is to connect with as many voters as possible and share his vision of compassionate, commonsense solutions at events and media appearances throughout the state.”

On Tuesday morning, he visited the El Monte Police Department, and he will continue to participate in various meet and greets throughout the week, according to Shupe — although he wouldn’t say exactly where those stops will be. 

Garvey jumped into the race in October and raised $610,000 by year-end — a figure that pales in comparison to his congressional competitors’ war chests. But his fundraising efforts surged between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14 as he took in $1.4 million, spent just less than $1.1 million and entered the homestretch of the primary race with $750,000 on hand. 

While he strongly benefits from the three-way split in the Democratic vote, his name recognition, conservative policy platform and avuncular appeal have also contributed to his success

Barbara Lee 

Lee’s final message to voters this week: “Leadership and experience matter. I have a certain lens of lived experience and perspective that the Senate desperately needs.”

As she vies for the seat long held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Lee has drawn on her background, particularly as a single mother who relied on public assistance, to underscore her more progressive economic positions, a message she’s continuing with in the home stretch. 

Like the other candidates, Lee has a full week ahead of California’s primary: She spent this past week in Oakland, visiting churches and attending her city’s seventh annual Black Joy Parade — the theme of the event was “Redefinition of a Hustler.” 

But she’s headed down to the turf of her fellow representatives this weekend. Lee has get-out-the-vote rallies and canvassing events planned on Saturday in San Diego and Orange County and will join worshippers at church in the Inland Empire on Sunday. Later Sunday, she has a rally planned in Los Angeles. Insurance Commissioner Richardo Lara is slated to join Lee in Southern California. 

And on Tuesday evening, she was scheduled to headline a virtual event with the progressive group Our Revolution. The event was billed as featuring candidates for federal and local offices who are “committed to furthering pro-peace policies amid the ongoing war in Gaza.”

Lee knows she’s lagging in the polls heading into Election Day, but she says she’s seen an outpouring of grassroots supporters who have come out to help with phone banking and other volunteer efforts.

“My focus right now is where it’s always been: on the ground, with the people, in the community,” she said.

Heading into the primary, Lee has more than $582,000 cash on hand, having raised about $568,000 this past quarter. 

Katie Porter

Porter has promoted herself to Golden State voters as a Washington outsider unbeholden to special interests. Throughout her campaign, she’s touted her record of rejecting money from corporate PAC and federal lobbyists, refusing to request earmarks and standing up to corporate interests.

And that’s the message she’s continuing to impart before polls close on March 5. 

She’s out with two new ads ahead of the primary, with one portraying her as “the leadership we desperately need” in the Senate, and a “watchdog” who will fight for everyday Californians. The other calls the recent crypto-backed ads that accused Porter of taking money from major banks and pharmaceutical and oil companies false. The former will run in Bakersfield and Fresno while the latter will air in Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento markets.

In fundraising emails this week, Porter has castigated Schiff for showing his ads on Fox News, but hers will reportedly also run on conservative media outlets, including Fox and Newsmax, from Wednesday through Friday.

Porter, who raised $2.9 million in the pre-primary period from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, spent $11.2 million and has $4.8 million still left to spend, is also busy trying to pump some extra cash into her campaign. 

According to Politico, Porter is selling her private email and phone lists of donors to digital advisers, with donors’ information being offered starting at 65 cents each. As Politico reported, politicians selling fundraising lists isn’t atypical behavior, but it can be risky during a primary — especially for Porter as she will need those donors if she advances to the general with Schiff, who has already built a substantial fundraising edge.

And with a week to go until the primary, Porter has two new endorsements: the United Auto Workers and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. 

Adam Schiff

Schiff’s strategy thus far has been to spend big and talk loudly — and he’s doubling down on that approach this week.

On Monday, Schiff launched his closing TV advertisement for the primary campaign, met with union representatives at the Port of Los Angeles and appeared on KTLA. The new advertisement is called “Hopeful” and showcases his efforts to learn about the dreams and desires of Californians on the campaign trail.

On Saturday, the representative will kick off his “California for All Tour” and will begin running his ads on Fox News, Politico reported. In doing so, he will be breaking his own entreaty to boycott the station.

“It’s important for California voters — no matter what TV channel they tune into — to know what’s at stake in this election,” said Marisol Samayoa, a Schiff spokesperson. 

During his three-day tour, he will meet with voters in Orange County, Palm Springs, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, Salinas and San Francisco. 

The Los Angeles representative has already funneled a whopping $23.3 million into TV, print and digital advertising. That is almost double Porter’s $12.2 million in ad spending and vastly more than Lee’s $1.2 million.

In addition to leading in fundraising and advertising, Schiff has also taken in a bevy of endorsements, including most recent endorsements from the Californians for Human Immigrant Rights Leadership Action Fund and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire.

A crowded field 

Besides the four leading candidates, 23 other candidates are running for the seat now held by Sen. Laphonza Butler. Among them are Democrat Christina Pascucci, a former TV journalist, and Republican Eric Early, an attorney.

Early, who’s been the subject of Porter’s digital ads late in the race which portray him as “way too MAGA for California,” said he’s meeting with voters across the state, all the way from Yolo County in northern California to Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, ahead of the primary. 

He’s polling at around 4%, according to the latest survey by the Public Policy Institute, and raised $71,773 in the pre-primary period from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14. He spent $97,683 and has $114,345 still left to spend. 

Pascucci, polling at around 1% in the same survey, is also booked and busy this week. She attended a “Coffee with a Cop” event in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday and will be making TV and radio appearances on KFI Radio/Tim Conway Jr. Show and Fox News later in the week. She is slated to hold a Q&A event with voters at Fullerton College on Thursday. 

Pascucci released a final 90-second digital video on Tuesday, describing herself as a “JFK-era Democrat” — what she described as “someone who believes in serving our country, looking out for a neighbor, driving innovation to the moon and being fiscally responsible.”

Pascucci raked in $66,162 and spent $90,336 between Jan. 1 to Feb. 14. She is going into Election Day with around $129,900 cash on hand.

Source: Orange County Register

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