California Senate Candidates Meet for Second Debate


March 20, 2024




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(LOS ANGELES) —Four candidates vying for the seat vacated by the late California Sen. Dianne Feinstein took the stage Jan. 22 during the Primary Election Debate held on USC’s campus.  They discussed key ballot topics such as abortion rights, federal funding, and Obamacare among others.

Feinstein, who served as a California senator for more than 30 years, died on Sept. 29. Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to serve as senator until the Nov. 5 general election. 

The candidates who joined the debate, hosted by Fox 11 Los Angeles and POLITICO, were Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter, and Republican Steve Garvey.  They debated various topics, from Israel’s war in Gaza to whom they would support in the presidential race between presumptive Democratic nominee President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump.

According to the Top Two Primary Act, the top two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, are subject to advance into the general election in November. No Republican has won a Senate race in California since 1988 according to

At times the debate grew contentious. For example, Porter, a Harvard Law School Graduate, said to Schiff during questioning, “I didn’t realize how much dirty money you took until I was running against you. You’ve taken money from Big Oil, Big Pharma, and cable companies.”   Schiff, who has served in Congress since 2001,  responded to the charge saying, “I gave that money to you, Katie Porter, and the only response was thank you, thank you, thank you” implying that that he had used some of the millions of dollars he raised to help fund Porter’s congressional campaigns. 
For his part, Garvey said he “wants to close the border and “get crime off the streets” in his statement on stage. As for abortion, he said he “would not vote for a federal abortion ban. Let’s make that clear right now.”

He declined to say whether he would support Trump for president or how a second Trump term might affect Americans. The candidates also discussed earmarks and whether they have been efficient for the state of California.

Porter called for an end to earmarks that Lee and Schiff supported as funding that has benefited programs in California for various reasons. Lee responded, “California is the one of the states that sends money to Washington [and] we don’t get our money back,” 

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