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    Former Dodgers star Steve Garvey launches bid for US Senate
    • October 10, 2023

    Former Dodgers star Steve Garvey made his foray into the crowded U.S. Senate race official Tuesday morning, launching a bid as a Republican.

    For Garvey, who played 14 seasons with the Dodgers before he finished with the San Diego Padres for five seasons, a move into the political arena isn’t much of a curveball. He’s advocated for fitness-related bills in Washington and considered a political career right after his retirement from baseball in 1987, though he was sidetracked by issues in his personal life for a while.

    But Garvey says it’s the increased animosity in politics, “the bickering back and forth” among politicians, that made him finally take the plunge.

    “All through these years, I’ve had this wonderful life, but I’ve always been interested in politics,” Garvey, 74, said in an interview ahead of the announcement.

    “The last few years, I’ve been more and more concerned about what’s happening in our society and the quality of our life and the dysfunction of Washington,” said Garvey. “I’ve got to stand up if there’s a way to actually run and be heard, and I think there is.”

    So he’s running, Garvey said, to bring “a fresh voice with fresh ideas” to represent California.

    Former major league baseball infielder Steve Garvey speaks during the annual Lifepath banquet at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Upper Macungie Twp. on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. With the Los Angeles Dodgers, Garvey played in 1,727 games over 14 seasons. He is jumping into the U.S. Senate race in California for the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat. (Harry Fisher / The Morning Call)

    Garvey helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series four times and was one of the stars of their 1981 championship; he also led the Padres to their first World Series appearance in 1984. He was part of a Dodgers infield that remained together for a record 8 1/2 seasons, was a 10-time All-Star and was selected as the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1974.

    During his career, especially his time with the Dodgers, few would’ve been shocked if he eventually ran for office. But the immaculate image he maintained for much of his career was shattered by revelations of multiple affairs, children he fathered, a rather public divorce and strained-at-best relationships with his first two children. He receded from the spotlight for a long time after seemingly living in it for much of the 1970s and ’80s.

    Much of the attention to that part of his life has faded, though, and he’s mainly remembered as a Southern California baseball great.

    And after Sen. Dianne Feinstein — who died in late September — said early this year she wouldn’t run for re-election in 2024, Garvey started talking with consultants about a possible run and acknowledged that in June.

    Since Feinstein’s announcement — and even a bit before — several candidates clamored early to announce bids for the seat.

    On the Democratic side, that includes Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Katie Porter of Irvine and Adam Schiff of Burbank as well as former tech executive Lexi Reese.

    It’s not yet clear if Sen. Laphonza Butler, a former union leader who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newson and sworn into the Senate following Feinstein’s death, plans to run as well.

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    On the Republican side, which includes Garvey, there’s attorney Eric Early, who unsuccessfully ran for attorney general in 2018 and 2022, as well as a few other contenders with no statewide name ID.

    Name ID is not the biggest problem for Garvey — albeit, one of the first items on Garvey’s campaign to-do list is reintroducing himself, he said — and he’s drawing heavily on his baseball background in the race. His launch video juxtaposes coverage of his athletic career with his campaign message: “It’s time to get off the bench. It’s time to put the uniform on. It’s time to get back in the game,” he says in the spot.

    Still, his entrance into the race begs the question: Can a Republican win in a California where Democrats hold every statewide office and dominate the legislative and congressional delegations? Could a baseball star running on the GOP ticket be successful in a state where Republicans, who are outnumbered about 2-to-1 by Democratic voters, have struggled for years to find candidates for top offices?

    “If Garvey is going to duplicate his success, his chances get much better if he runs the same type of campaign that (former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) did,” Dan Schnur, a former campaign consultant who teaches about political messaging at UC Berkeley and USC, has said.

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    “Part of what made (Schwarzenegger) different is that he was extremely well-known,” Schnur said. “The other thing that made him different was his ability to combine a conservative economic message with a more centrist approach on social issues.”

    The most recent time a Republican was elected to the U.S. Senate was 1988 when Pete Wilson won re-election to what would be his final term before becoming California’s governor.

    And in the past two U.S. Senate races, Democrats outperformed Republicans by such a great margin that it was only the Democrats who advanced past the primary to make it into the November election.

    Garvey says he’s not running with the party label in mind. He plans to focus on consensus building — like rebuilding a team, he said. When pressed on what issues drive his campaign, he said it’s “quality of life” concerns like the economy, public safety and education.

    “Yes, I’ve got an ‘R’ next to my name, but in order to run for all the people, people have to know I care about all of them,” Garvey said. “Somebody needs to bring people together.”

    “Sure, I’ll be a rookie,” he said, “but I’d like to think I’ll be a well-prepared rookie who has had life experiences who can represent the people of California and the people of this country.”

    ​ Orange County Register