California May Block Republicans From Senate Run

It’s possible that no Republicans will appear on the general election ballot for a Senate seat representing California come November.

If that happens, it won’t be because no one ran, but rather because the state has some odd rules for how primary elections work.

On March 5, Californians can vote in the state’s primary elections. One seat that will appear on that ballot is the crucial one that is currently occupied by Democrat Laphonza Butler.

She is finishing out the term of former Senator Dianne Feinstein, who passed away in September 2023.

There three current Democratic Congress members who are running for that seat — Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. On the Republican side, the leading candidate is Steve Garvey, a former professional baseball player.

Unlike many other states, it’s no guarantee that the general election for this seat will be between a Republican and Democrat. That’s because California uses what’s known as a “jungle primary” system.

In it, every candidate runs on the same ballot for the primary election, regardless of which political party they belong to. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary advance to November’s general election, meaning it’s possible that two Democrats could face off against each other for the seat.

Garvey might have a chance to advance to the general election, according to recent polls. Four have been released so far this year. Two show that Garvey will advance, while the other two show that two Democrats will face off in November.

That’s something that the Republican Party in the state is actually very pleased with. As California GOP spokesperson Ellie Hockenbury said:

“I have no idea how coming in second place or tying for second in the three most recent polls can be seen as anything but a great sign that Republicans will make the top two. Voters are understandably fed up with the radical policy failures championed by the three Democrat congressmembers in this race.

“[Garvey is] surging at the right time and putting Republicans in a strong position to advance to the general election this November.”

The challenge for Garvey is that, even if he were to advance to the general election, he will face a huge uphill battle of actually winning a seat on the Senate. California is considered one of the most liberal states in the nation, and hardly ever elects a Republican to Congress.

President Joe Biden won California by more than 29 points during the 2020 presidential election.

Christian Robert Grose, who works at the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute as its academic director, said as much when he commented:

“It is irrelevant if the Rs are on the ballot in the general or not as they are unlikely to win the Senate race given the Democratic lean of the state.”

He added that if Porter and Schiff were to advance, it would “provide an opportunity for a truly competitive race.”