California Senate Seat Debate: Candidates Spar on Issues and Election Strategy

Morgan Gallagher

By Morgan Gallagher

Published February 13, 2024

The four leading candidates for California’s open U.S. Senate seat faced off in a one-hour debate in San Francisco, engaging in fewer clashes than their previous meeting in January. The debate was moderated by Frank Buckley of KTLA and Nikki Laurenzo of Inside California Politics, who kept the candidates to their time limits and pressed them for specific answers.

Schiff vs. Garvey: Clash Over Trump and Democracy

During the debate, Rep. Adam Schiff focused his attacks on Steve Garvey, the sole Republican candidate, particularly over the issue of Donald Trump. Schiff emphasized that the greatest threat to democracy is Donald Trump, while Garvey highlighted concerns about deconstruction of the Constitution. This exchange reflected the ongoing tension between the candidates from different parties.

Porter's Critique and Election Strategy

Meanwhile, Rep. Katie Porter criticized Schiff for spotlighting Garvey in his ads, suggesting that this strategy was aimed at making the Senate race more competitive by drawing attention to the Republican candidate's past support for Trump. This exchange shed light on the election strategies employed by the candidates to secure their spots in the general election.

Specific Policy Questions and Responses

The moderators pressed the candidates on specific policy questions, prompting varied responses. Rep. Barbara Lee highlighted legislation addressing homelessness, while Garvey called for an audit of spending to address the crisis. Porter emphasized her work as a consumer advocate and her focus on housing issues. This segment showcased the candidates' differing policy approaches.

Border and Crime Issues

The candidates expressed differing views on border security and crime problems in California. Garvey criticized Biden's approach to the border, while Schiff addressed crime issues and referenced Garvey's background as a baseball player and former prosecutor. These contrasting perspectives highlighted the candidates' stances on critical state and national issues.

Final Remarks and Critiques

As the debate unfolded, the candidates exchanged critiques and emphasized their qualifications. Porter attacked 'Washington insiders' for favoring tax breaks for the wealthy, while Schiff responded to her criticisms of career politicians. These final remarks underscored the candidates' efforts to distinguish themselves and their visions for California's future.