It’s been 32 years since former Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat was open and the race to replace her is replete with ambitious candidates seeking to make a name for themselves on the national stage.
Feinstein died in September 2023 at age 90 after announcing she would not seek reelection when her term expired in January 2025. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed former Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler to serve out most of the remainder of Feinstein’s term.
When Butler surprised the world by announcing she would not seek election, it created a wide open race for one of the most influential positions in American politics. Because of these unique circumstances, voters will be asked to select a U.S. Senator twice: first for a partial two-month term in 2023 and then for the standard six-year term beginning in January of 2024.
A whopping 27 candidates will appear on voters’ ballots. However, there are four clear candidates leading the race.
At the front of the pack is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) who has approximately 25% of voters’ support, according to the recent California Elections & Policy Poll.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and former Dodger Steve Garvey, who is running as a Republican, are deadlocked in second place with 15% each. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) trails with 7%.
Republican attorney Eric Early, Republican businessman James Bradley and Democratic advocate Jessica Resendez each hold 1% of the vote, while the remaining 21 candidates share less than 1% of the vote between them, according to the poll.
Schiff is the clear frontrunner when it comes to fundraising. He entered 2024 with a $35 million war chest.
In comparison, Garvey, who jumped in the race in October, raised $611,000 in the last quarter of 2023, spent half on the campaign and entered 2024 with about $300,000 cash on hand. The secret to his strong polling is a celebrity name, Republican support, and a three-way split in the Democratic vote, political experts say.
Porter began the year with $13 million in cash on hand, while Lee held $816,000.
The four front-runners met on the debate stage earlier this month where they sparred on some of the hottest topics in the race including housing and homelessness, the Israel-Hamas war and healthcare. They will take to the stage once again on Monday, Feb. 12 for KTLA’s televised debate from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Here’s what you need to know about the four leading candidates:
Adam Schiff: Schiff is the representative of the 30th Congressional District, a seat he has held for 23 years that encompasses Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale and a chunk of the San Fernando Valley. The district has a staunchly Democratic base and represents key entertainment industry leaders and studios. This gave him an excellent platform to make a name for himself on the national stage while in Congress and offers deep pockets to tap into for his Senate campaign.
He began his political career in 1996 when he became California’s youngest state senator and was elected to Congress in 2000. Schiff rose to national preeminence while serving as lead prosecutor in the first impeachment trial against Donald Trump. In Congress, Schiff has led efforts to raise the minimum wage, protect the wilderness and build an earthquake early warning system.
His campaign platform focuses on bringing down the costs for food and gas, building more affordable housing, Medicare for All and investing in renewable energy. He has said he supports a humanitarian pause to let aid into Gaza, but cannot support a permanent ceasefire that would “perpetuate Hamas terrorist control of Gaza.”
Steve Garvey: Garvey is the only Republican candidate in the top four and is a first-time candidate. He said, in an interview with the Southern California News Group, that he was motivated to jump into the race due to the declining quality of life in California and “the currency of that trust and friendship with the people” that he cultivated over his 19-year baseball career.
Fourteen seasons with the Dodgers, five with the Padres, ten all star seasons and a World Series championship have made him a household name across the state and country. Following his sporting career he became a philanthropist and owner of Garvey Communications, a sports branding and marketing firm.
His campaign platform focuses on bringing down inflation, securing the border, bolstering public safety, improving public education, investing in clean energy and fighting homelessness. When it comes to the Israel-Hamas conflict he says “for me, the stance is clear and unwavering: Israel’s right to self-defense is paramount,” on his campaign website.
Katie Porter: Porter represents California’s 47th district, a seat long held by Republicans that she flipped blue in 2018. The O.C. district contains contain Irvine, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Seal Beach. She is known for using a whiteboard with blunt facts and statistics to hold witnesses accountable during congressional hearings.
Prior to launching her political career, Porter taught bankruptcy law and worked as a consumer protection attorney. She frequently cites her work experience, alongside her upbringing on an Iowa farm, as motivation for standing up to pharmaceutical companies, oil and gas giants, and corporate lobbyists to demand fair prices.
Her campaign platform calls for cracking down on corporate price gouging, ramping up affordable housing production, cleaning up corruption in government, and investing in education, clean energy and healthcare. Porter supports a lasting bilateral ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Barbara Lee: Lee has been a member of Congress for 25 years and represents the 12th District, which is based in Oakland and covers most of northern Alameda County. Lee is known for being the sole member out of 535 representatives to vote against the authorization of military force in Afghanistan after 9/11 and is currently one of the loudest voices in Congress calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Lee often cites her challenging early life as motivation for fighting for the working class, reproductive rights and racial justice. Lee grew up in segregated El Paso, Texas and received an illegal abortion in Mexico as a teen. She later experienced a period of homelessness as a single mom fleeing an abusive marriage with two young children.
Her political career began as a volunteer in the Black Panther Party and she went on to serve seven years in the California state legislature before running for Congress in 1998. Her platform calls for universal free childcare, cutting the defense budget, Medicare for All, federal cash assistance to low-income renters and significantly increasing taxes on companies that make more than $500 million profit annually.
Additional candidates running for U.S. Senate:
- Christina Pascucci: Veteran TV news reporter and anchor at KTLA and Fox 11 in Los Angeles. Her priorities include jobs and the economy, mental health, immigration, healthcare and national security, according to her campaign website.
- Sepi Gilani: Physician, surgeon and associate professor at UC San Diego. Her priorities include homelessness, education and healthcare, according to her campaign website.
- Harmesh Kumar: Clinical psychologist and social entrepreneur. His priorities include mental health, gun violence, homelessness, affordable housing and immigration, according to his campaign website.
- David Peterson: Small business owner and legislative advocate. His priorities include medical for all, renewable energy and infrastructure for fire prevention, according to his campaign website.
- Douglas H. Pierce: Missing persons’ investigator and entrepreneur. His priorities include gun safety, addressing government debt, immigration, homelessness, drought infrastructure and police reform, according to his campaign website.
- Perry Pound: Founder of an investment and advisory firm. His priorities include supporting small businesses, immigration, homelessness, the environment, healthcare and education, according to his campaign website.
- Raji Rab: Aviator, educator and owner of a computer infrastructure and training facility. His priorities include the economy, homelessness healthcare, environment and student debt, according to his campaign website.
- John Rose: Office manager and children’s book author. His priorities include democracy awareness, filibuster reform, patriotism and national unity.
- Sharleta Bassett: Businesswoman, farmer and day care owner. Her priorities include child safety and anti-trafficking efforts, national security and border protection, and veterans’ advocacy, according to her campaign website.
- James Bradley: Chief executive officer in tech/healthcare industry, veteran and former Coast Guard member. His priorities include election integrity, border security, government transparency, homelessness and protecting parental rights.
- Eric Early: Attorney and managing partner of a law firm. His priorities include addressing inflation, protecting parental rights, strengthening the border, funding law enforcement and supporting Ukraine, according to his campaign website.
- Denice Gary-Pandol: Retired security analyst and political science professor. Her priorities include strengthening the border, protecting the fossil fuel industry and ending the water crisis, according to her campaign website.
- Sarah Sun Liew: Pastor, nonprofit CEO and former real estate broker. Her priorities include job creation, supporting immigrants, education, housing and healthcare, according to her campaign website.
- James “Jim” Macauley: Sales associate. His priorities include addressing federal debt, growing the economy and banning the trading of securities by members of Congress, according to his campaign website.
- Jonathan Reiss: Owner of a media company. His priorities include protecting constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms, border security, election security, the economy, supporting law enforcement and the military and protecting religious independence, according to his campaign website.
- Stefan Simchowitz: Art dealer. His priorities include addressing crime and homelessness, education, healthcare, the economy, protecting the 2nd Amendment and immigration, according to his campaign website.
- Martin Veprauskas: Retired operations manager and former naval officer. His priorities include stopping the fentanyl crisis and securing the border, affordable housing, clean energy, lowering gas prices and cutting wasteful government spending, according to his campaign website.
- Forrest Jones: No ballot designation, social media or campaign website.
- Gail Lightfoot: Retired registered nurse. Her campaign priorities include ending involvement in foreign conflicts, ending the war on drugs, decreasing taxes, abolishing the Department of Education and ending the prosecution of illegal immigrants, according to her campaign website.
No party preference
- Laura Garza: Freight railroad worker and member of the Socialist Workers Party, which is not qualified to be listed on the California ballot. Her campaign priorities include standing up for the working class, amnesty for undocumented workers, extending social security and expanding Medicare, according to her responses to the O.C. Register Voter Guide.
- Don J. Grundmann: Chiropractic doctor. His priorities include ending federal support for abortion organizations, abolishing the Department of Education and Federal Reserve and promoting nuclear power, according to his campaign website.
- Mark Ruzon: Software engineer. His priorities include ending federal support for abortion organizations, addressing the border crisis and affordable housing, according to his campaign website.
- Major Singh: Software engineer. His priorities include homelessness, reducing taxes, education, wildfire safety and drought infrastructure, according to his campaign website.
2024 presidential primary election
Election Day: March 5, 2024. Polls close at 8 p.m.
Early voting: You can vote at the Los Angeles County registrar’s office beginning Monday, Feb. 5. The registrar’s headquarters are at 12400 Imperial Highway, Room 3002, in Norwalk. That office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Vote-by-mail: Ballots began going out on Thursday, Feb. 1. You can submit VBMs in three ways: By mailing them to the registrar’s office (VBMs include return envelopes with the correct address and postage already included); by placing them in an official drop box; or by dropping them off at any county Vote Center.
VBM deadline: VBMs sent via mail must arrive no later than seven days after the election, but they must be postmarked by March 5. The deadline to place VBMs in a drop box or deliver them to a Vote Center is 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Vote Centers: Vote Centers open 10 days before Election Day. This year, that’s Saturday, Feb. 24. You can vote at any Vote Center in Los Angeles County. Prior to Election Day, the Vote Centers will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Election Day, they will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
About the ballots: In California, the order races are listed on ballots goes from local to federal, meaning the nominees for president will be listed at the bottom. Except for presidential races, California’s primaries for “partisan” offices – now known as “voter-nominated offices” have a top-two system. That means the top two vote getters in a given race advance to the general election, regardless of political party.
To find a drop box or Vote Center and for more information: lavote.gov.
Name of race: U.S. Senate
Term length: Six years
District boundaries: California
Registered voters: 22 million, as of Jan. 5, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
Key issues: Homelessness, housing, Israel-Hamas war, public safety, the economy