Riding His Baseball Fame, Steve Garvey Disrupts the California Senate Race

In the crowded race to succeed the late Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Steve Garvey stands out both for his celebrity and for how little he has actually campaigned.

At community forums, the former baseball star turned pitchman has been a serial no-show. After televised debates, he has fled reporters waiting in the spin room. The 75-year-old Republican, a political novice, has raised only a sliver of the tens of millions of dollars needed to win a statewide race in California.

Yet with only two weeks left until the March 5 primary, Mr. Garvey stands to win one of two November runoff spots despite facing three experienced Democratic members of Congress and a host of other contenders.

While Representative Adam Schiff has widened his overall lead, polls suggest that Mr. Garvey could beat Representative Katie Porter for second place in California’s unusual “jungle” primary.

In a state so vast that 22 million voters participated in the last presidential election, name recognition can still overcome political inexperience and a lack of money. Even if that name was largely made playing baseball four decades ago.

And in a strategic move that has become common in California, Mr. Schiff has perhaps done more to help Mr. Garvey than Mr. Garvey himself. The leading Democrat has spent $10 million on ads that ostensibly attack Mr. Garvey as “too conservative for California” but that have the likely effect of rallying a critical mass of Republican voters to his side. The result has been an improbable disruption of a contest that was expected to be dominated by two Democratic members of Congress.

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