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Difference of Opinion Columnists: Who is the best California candidate for US Senate?

Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff and Katie Porter are pictured (left to right). (Myka Fromm/Photo editor)

By Angelina Alkhouri, Makenna Kramer, and Rakesh Peddibhotla

March 4, 2024 9:33 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article's headline incorrectly stated that the article was about the California State Senate race. In fact, it is about the race for California's seats in the United States Senate.

This post was updated March 4 at 3:41 p.m.

As primary election day approaches on March 5, 2024, the California Senate candidates fight to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein and fill the open seat. The four major candidates are Democratic members of Congress Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, and Republican candidate and former Dodger first baseman Steve Garvey. With a wide range of stances on key issues regarding foreign policy, immigration and the economy, each candidate presents unique debates on how they would best advance the state of California and the nation writ large. A few Opinion columnists advocate for or against the candidates in the latest edition of “A Difference of Opinion Columnists.

In support of Katie Porter – Angelina Alkhouri

With a focus on addressing America’s financial crisis, Democratic candidate Katie Porter advocates for families, the working class and unions. As a law professor and single mother, Porter has built a reputation of determination and justice by proving herself as a trustworthy representative of the people by calling out issues within the status quo.

Porter’s campaign has largely focused on delivering accountability and increasing transparency to prioritize the needs of the people. Within health care, this means enhancing legislation to limit Big Pharma’s overcharging of patients for prescription drugs. Within government agencies such as the Pentagon, Porter calls for a reevaluation of military spending. Furthermore, Porter wishes to increase artificial intelligence regulation, advance clean energy investments, support unions through the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and penalize Big Oil for high prices.

Voters can trust Katie Porter to deliver accountability because her campaign is the only one not funded by corporate political action committees or federal lobbyist money. She has garnered the second highest percentage of voters of all candidates and raised $6.59 million, demonstrating widespread support.

While Porter’s opponents such as Schiff support continued United States aid to Israel, she argues against unconditional aid and opts for a ceasefire to procure lasting peace in Gaza. The Senate would benefit from a more centrist perspective that prioritizes ending violence in this complex conflict.

California needs an articulate negotiator like Katie Porter to win this primary election.

In support of Barbara Lee – Makenna Kramer

Californians deserve a senator who has a clear and equitable vision of the future. Longtime Democratic representative Barbara Lee is that candidate.

Lee’s background makes her uniquely equipped to represent the nation’s most diverse state. As the only candidate who has spent time on public assistance and had an illegal abortion, Lee is a standout in an otherwise upper-class field.

Being a consistent champion of social justice and economic equality, Lee is a trailblazer in the fight for a living wage, renters’ rights and federal cannabis decriminalization. She also fully supports canceling all student loan debt and making higher education affordable.

Lee is most renowned for her unapologetic foreign policy positions. As the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing the war in Afghanistan in 2001, she is among the nation’s premier anti-war advocates. Unafraid of pursuing systemic change, Lee has advocated for greater financial transparency around defense spending, and was the first candidate to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Lee’s long list of endorsers speaks to the diverse coalition she inspires, including labor leader Dolores Huerta, the California Legislative Black Caucus and Reproductive Freedom For All.

At a time when Californians face environmental, economic and political challenges, Barbara Lee is the strong and calculated voice we need.

In support of Barbara Lee and in opposition to Steve Garvey – Rakesh Peddibhotla

Republican candidate Steve Garvey, former professional baseball player, certainly seems to be a long shot, although he is currently polling ahead of Barbara Lee and barely behind Katie Porter.

Garvey may not be among the far-right ranks of the national Republican Party, but his policy positions are certainly at odds with the average college student. He supported former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, and has expressed a desire to “close down the border” to enforce stricter immigration laws.

While it is unlikely that Garvey will pull many Democratic voters, there is a chance that he could advance if Democratic voters split their votes among Lee, Porter and Schiff.

But for progressive college students, Lee is the best choice.

She is the most socially liberal of the three, supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as well as getting guns off of the streets.

Porter is the centrist candidate among the three Democrats, while Schiff, the favorite of the Democratic establishment, is the most conservative.

Thus, Lee is the ideal candidate for politically progressive voters and college students. Garvey, meanwhile, is a former professional baseball player with no political experience, so serious voters should avoid him as an option.

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