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Democrat Adam Schiff and Republican Garvey advance in the California U.S. Senate race

Updated March 6, 2024 at 12:12 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of Los Angeles, who led the first impeachment inquiry of former President Donald Trump, will face Republican Steve Garvey, a former Los Angeles Dodgers player, in a general election runoff to decide who will represent California in the U.S. Senate, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

Schiff and the former first baseman Garvey managed to edge out Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter and Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, both Democrats, and claim the top two spots.

California has a top-two primary system, in which all candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters advance.

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The matchup in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, where a Republican hasn't won statewide since 2006, is a huge win for Schiff, who ran ads propping up Garvey in the hopes of avoiding a runoff between himself and another Democrat.

The outcome of Tuesday's race means that no matter who wins in November, California will not have a female representing the state in the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1992. The late Dianne Feinstein held the seat from her first election in 1992 until her death last fall. Her replacement, Laphonza Butler, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom but she chose not to run.

In a quirk of election timing, voters actually weighed in on two questions Tuesday: who should compete for the full six-year term that begins next January, and who should fill out the final months of Feinstein's term after the November election.

In both cases, voters chose Garvey and Schiff.

Schiff, a longtime congressman and former federal prosecutor, ran as an establishment Democrat, with endorsements from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Sen. Barbara Boxer and most of the Democrats who represent California in Congress. Schiff made national headlines for leading the first impeachment inquiry into Trump and appeared to resonate with Democratic voters worried about a second Trump term.

Garvey, who played for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres from 1969 to 1987, has never run for office before. He often struggled to articulate policy positions during his short campaign, and lagged behind his Democratic opponents in fundraising. But he managed to consolidate the Republican and conservative vote in the final weeks before the primary and was likely aided by Schiff, who ran ads elevating the Republican in the hopes of avoiding a runoff against a fellow Democrat.

Porter, a three-term congresswoman from a swing district in Orange County, ran as an outsider looking to shake things up. She has called for a ban on stock trading among members of Congress and attacked Schiff for taking corporate political money in past races. But in a presidential primary with no real competition at the top of the ticket, she likely was hurt by lower-than-usual voter turnout and a lack of engagement among younger voters and voters of color, two of her key constituencies.

Copyright 2024 KQED

Marisa Lagos