You’d have to go back a generation — to 1988 — to find the last time a Republican candidate won a U.S. Senate race in heavily Democratic California. This time, the party might get an MVP on the ballot.
Baseball legend Steve Garvey, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, is meeting with voters and senior GOP officials as he weighs a potential 2024 Senate bid in a race that already has several prominent Democratic contenders in the field. He appeared at a recent fundraiser for Republican Rep. Michelle Steel in Orange County, where he signed baseballs and talked about his potential candidacy.
“He is seriously considering entering the race,” said veteran consultant Andy Gharakhani, who is advising Garvey.
The 74-year-old Garvey had an 18-year major league career. He was National League MVP in 1974 and retired from baseball in 1987.
Garvey has flirted with the possibility of entering politics before, including after his retirement from baseball, when he teased a possible U.S. Senate run but never became a candidate.
“I have been approached to run for office and am exploring that. No announcement is imminent,” Garvey said in a statement released by a Dodgers team spokesperson.
Garvey’s candidacy would reorder a growing field that already includes Democratic Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee. The seat is held by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has announced she is not seeking another term.
Still, even with his celebrity sparkle, Garvey would enter the race as an underdog. Democrats hold every statewide office and dominate the legislative and congressional delegations. Republicans — who are outnumbered about 2-to-1 by Democratic voters in the state — have struggled for years to find candidates for top offices.
In the state’s last two U.S. Senate races, GOP candidates performed so poorly in the primary elections that only Democrats advanced to the November ballot. Garvey’s candidacy could give the GOP a chance to make the November election, potentially lifting party turnout and also helping down-ballot GOP candidates.
In recent election cycles, California Republicans have targeted criticism at the state’s Democratic-dominated government, faulting the rival party for notoriously high taxes, a homeless crisis, rising crime rates in cities and housing prices that are out of reach for many working-class families.
Republican attorney Eric Early — an unsuccessful candidate for state attorney general in 2022 and 2018 and for Congress in 2020 — entered the Senate contest in April. He has said he will campaign for the votes of “forgotten” Californians and against what he called “far-left” ideology creeping into government.
“I think Steve Garvey would be one of the most interesting and dynamic candidates for a statewide office Republicans have had in decades,” said Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, who is married to the congresswoman.
“He’s good on the stump … and he reminds me of a Reagan-esque approach,” Steel added, referring to former Republican President Ronald Reagan, another Californian.