Don’t donate to California’s senate race

Illustration by Sarah Chantres/The Daily Campus

Given its reputation as a heavily Democratic state, California is seldom mentioned in the grand scheme of American electoral politics. The state hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 and only a handful of senate elections since then have been competitive. However, with the shell of 89-year old Dianne Feinstein slowly withering away and concerns about her age and mental fitness to serve become louder, numerous California Democrats have declared their campaigns for the 2024 senate election in the state. Representatives Katie Porter and Adam Schiff have already declared their campaigns and more candidates are expected to join. As the race heats up, large amounts of political donations will likely flow into the state from donors and individuals across the country. But the senate race in California isn’t worth donating to and should not be a destination for political donations this election cycle. 

It’s important to give some context about how California’s elections work. Since 2011, California has used a “jungle primary” system where all candidates run on the same primary ballot. The top two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, then advance to the general election. As a result of this system, it’s very possible for two Democrats to end up on the general election ballot, which would guarantee a Democratic victory. This scenario happened most recently in 2018 when Feinstein faced off against state senator-turned activist assaulter Kevin de León.  

As mentioned earlier, Porter and Schiff have already announced their candidacy this cycle. Representative Barbara Lee, best known for being the lone vote against the Authorization of Military Force of 2001, has indicated to her colleagues that she will launch her campaign soon. Representative Ro Khanna has also toyed with the idea of entering the race. With this many notable Democrats in the mix for the seat, the likelihood that two Democrats advance to the general election is increased. The likelihood of this scenario is increased by the fact that there are no notable Republican candidates in the race. As such, it doesn’t make sense for individuals or groups to donate to a race that has a predetermined general election outcome (in terms of partisan control). And even if a Republican makes it onto the ballot, the seat will likely remain in Democratic hands due to the heavy blue lean of the state. A large amount of money donated would likely be left over after the general election since it wouldn’t be a partisan, competitive race. If voters and groups want their money to go further, they would be better off donating to candidates in critical states like Ohio, Montana and Nevada that will ultimately determine control of the Senate in 2024. These races will be hyper-competitive and any money donated would be more useful in these races rather than in deep blue California.  

What Democrats and anyone who would donate to the candidates need to realize is that their contributions could actually lead to an electoral nightmare scenario. If large amounts of money are donated to the candidates, then the race between Democrats could become hypercompetitive. In this scenario, the competitive race could split the Democratic vote so much that two no-name Republicans would be the top two vote-getters and advance to the general election. This would be a devastating blow to Senate Democrats, as the seat would be a guaranteed flip. This would give Republicans a senate seat in one of the bluest states in the nation and would be one of the biggest defeats the California Democratic Party has ever suffered. Well, either that or the fact that the face of their party is Gavin Newsom. Any potential donors to this race need to think about this scenario before they decide to donate or not, as their money could cause more harm than good. 

But if potential donors need more reasons not to donate to this race, consider the candidates themselves. Schiff’s campaign is entirely based on his role in NFT salesman Donald Trump’s first impeachment. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he talks about Trump in his campaign more than Rudy Giuliani talked about 9/11 in his failed 2008 presidential run — and that would be some accomplishment since every one of Giuliani’s sentences in his campaign was “a noun, a verb, and 9/11” as Joe Biden once said. Lee would be 78 years-old in 2024, which isn’t much of an upgrade from Feinstein, and Porter has been under fire for recent allegations of workplace abuse to her staffers. And despite the presence of these challengers, Feinstein has yet to rule out a run. The problems with her candidacy present a laundry list of reasons that I would need a whole separate article to properly address. 

The point is this: the 2024 California Senate race doesn’t have enough national implications or strong enough candidates that would justify donating money to the race, and donating money could lead to a scenario where Democrats are locked out of the general election. So do yourself a favor and don’t send your money to California.  

Leave a Reply