With just weeks to go until ballots are dropped in the mail, the race for Senate is heating up in California, and candidates are working overtime to set themselves apart from the pack.
Part of that strategy seems to be rolling out plans and agendas outlining policy priorities as voters prepare to cast their ballot.
Earlier this month, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., released her “Shake Up the Senate” plan, highlighting her ideas to “clean up corruption.”
“I'm proud to release my Shake Up the Senate plan because, as I've often said, I didn't go to Washington to play by the rules but to rewrite them. That's why I am calling for a total ban on lobbyist and corporate contributions for any member of the U.S. Senate.,” said Porter upon the release of the plan.
The plan includes banning federal lobbyist contributions and corporate political action committee donations, eliminating the pet-project funding for politicians often known as earmarks, banning members of Congress from trading stocks, banning singular holds on nominations and abolishing the filibuster, and making the Senate "accountable" for people.
"For too long, greedy corporations have spent billions in campaign donations to purchase friendly laws and lawmakers, creating a rigged economy stacked against everyday people. It's time for this legal corruption to end," she said.
His democracy agenda prioritizes abolishing the filibuster and the electoral college, and is built upon his own Protecting our Democracy Act. His affordability agenda outlines lofty goals for Californians, including three guaranteed months of paid parental leave, fair pay for early childhood educators, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, a middle class tax cut, expanding social safety net programs and making public college free for Californians.
“It’s not that people aren’t working hard. They’re working harder than ever, and still not making enough to get by. They’re paying more for housing, childcare, gas, medicine, education and food. And their wages simply aren’t increasing fast enough to keep up with the basic costs of living,” Schiff said in a statement. “Meanwhile, corporations continue to make record profits and the wealthiest among us don’t pay their fair share.”
We reached out to Lee’s camp to see if they plan to release a similar plan or agenda.
While many of these are lofty goals — in a Republican-controlled House and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate — they are also slightly unrealistic without massive Democratic gains in 2024. But Matt Lesenyie, a professor at California State University Long Beach, says that may not even matter.
“In this election, both Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, as well as Barbara Lee, are looking for name recognition and identification with voters. And so one way to sort of gin up earned media is to roll out plans and identify exactly what their policy platform is to a number of voters in California that actually aren't familiar at all with their names,” Lesenyie explained.
With California totalling 163,696 square miles, Lesenyie argues that most individuals outside their given district likely don’t know much about the candidates or what they stand for, unless they are politically plugged in.
“Most Californians aren't represented by these people and in our political coverage, we're more likely to hear about statewide officials — the Lieutenant Governor — than you are to hear about a member of Congress from some far-flung district. And so while they're all powerful and sort of a part of the leadership team or adjacent to it in the beltway, back here at home they are really relative unknowns,” he said.
Lesenyie also warned that could spell trouble for these three come primary day, especially with Republican candidate Steve Garvey polling neck and neck with Porter, and Lee behind Schiff in a recent poll by UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
“In the case of Steve Garvey, you have a candidate, a newcomer, who has instant name recognition for a certain generation. I wouldn't expect that younger voters would be too familiar with the former L.A. Dodger, but there's real potential for him to steal second place in the primary because voter turnout tends to be a little lower,” Lesenyie explained.
“The name recognition of the other Democrats, really all three of the major candidates, is relatively low. And so primary voters, some of them won't be voting on necessarily ideology or experience, it'll be ‘who do I recognize from this?' and potentially, 'who's exciting?'" Lesenyie said. "So some of the implications of that downstream are that if Garvey comes in second, with Porter and Lee potentially out of the race, it's a lock for Adam Schiff.”
Whether these plans resonate with voters remain to be seen, but with just weeks left, the candidates are giving it their all.