TELL KATIE: Concede the Short Term Race to LEE!

Yeah, the headline seems bonkers. Maybe that will change after you read these 15 (mostly) short paragraphs below. Let’s start by reviewing some pertinent facts!

(1) The combined predicted vote share of Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, based on current polls, well exceeds that of Steve Garvey and slightly exceed that of Adam Schiff. But they’re splitting that vote. The latest PPIC Survey found that 24% of likely voters favor Schiff, 19% favor Porter, 18% favor Garvey, and 10% favor Lee. The race for second place, and a ticket for the Top Two runoff, is a statistical tie. Interestingly, PPIC seems to have treated the two Senate races, for Short Term (replacing Laphonza Butler) and the Full Term (the term for the six years after Dianne Feinstein was elected in 2018) are the same race. The point of this piece is — they aren’t, and that could prove very useful for Katie Porter!

(2) Barbara Lee has no chance of making the runoff for the full Senate term. This is, as she complains, largely about lacking money –an outcome that surely doesn’t surprise her. But she does have enough support to spoil Katie’s chance of passing Garvey and making the runoff! I don’t know what relations between Lee and her colleagues are like: she’s closer ideologically to Katie, but closer in age to Schiff — and I can imagine his courtliness striking her better than her brashness. But, I don’t think that she wants her final political legacy to be freezing a woman out of the U.S. Senate runoff — which is where we’re heading! So I suspect that she’s open to helpful ideas for sticking the landing.

(3A) Now: write down your answer for how long do you think that the short term Senate seat that will be vacated by Laphonza Butler will last. Seriously, write down your guess NOW! … … … inserting a bunch of unnecessary words here and a title graphic here …

Images of Porter, Schiff, and Garvey above smaller images of Barbara Lee, Schiff, and Garvey.
Two U.S. Senate elections are taking place for the same seat at different times and for different lengths. That means that California voters can have their cake and eat it too — and that could be good news for Katie Porter!

(3B) … and here so that you won’t accidentally spoil the surprise at how very four weeks short it actually is, but I think four weeks that you may have figured it four weeks out by now. The votes won’t be fully tabulated and certified until 30 days after the November 5 general/runoff election, i.e. December 5. The new Congressional term begins on Friday January 3. So that’s only <s>three</s> (oops!) four weeks, during which Congress will likely be in recess for most of this time. Whichever Democrat wins will leave their seat vacant during those four weeks — DID YOU GUESS IT WAS THAT SHORT? –and a House member can’t be appointed but must be elected, so Dems temporarily go down one seat in the House during that time, but it’s OK because their replacements for all three will be chosen this year.

(4) Porter gains nothing except a little seniority over other newly elected Senators by winning the short-term election. If she beats Schiff for the full-term, for example, she’ll have a jump on other members. But let’s say that Schiff wins the short term and Porter wins the full term. Schiff can — and I think would for the benefit of the state — be able to resign that seat almost immediately and allow Newsom to appoint Porter and let her get a jump on seniority. The short term election is intrinsically worth very little to her.

(5) In comparison, winning the short term — even if it’s a consolation prize — is worth a hell of a lot more to Barbara Lee. Leaving Congress as an elected U.S. Senator in a nice way for her to end her career, given the lack of a better realistic alternative. (I suspect that the next chapter of her life, presuming a Democratic victory, will be as a Cabinet Secretary or Special Presidential Representative.) But what it matters to her is not the main consideration. It’s what it means to others that matters more.

(6) Lee’s running in and (I hope) victory in the short-term election means a lot to three groups of voters: women; Blacks (and to some extent to other ethnic and religious minorities); voters, perhaps most of all to left/progressive voters. All three groups have a history of maltreatment and disrespect from both major parties in California; in increasing order, all of them largely feel represented by Barbara Lee.

(7) As a practical matter, Democrats will be much better off if Lee beat Garvey (and Porter) for the second slot in the short term Top Two. If Democrats want Blacks and leftists in particular to come out and vote in November — and, hint: they do — they are much better off having Barbara Lee on the statewide ballot. In fact, if Lee does make the Top Two for the short term race, Schiff should basically concede that race to her. (I can hear it now: “I have never wanted to lose a political race before, but I would be honored to lost this particular race to Barbara Lee.

(8) This may be more important to leftist progressives than anyone, because while the Democratic Party establishment affirmatively (not a dirty word!) seeks out women and non-radical Blacks for high office, it generally blocks leftists (or as they see them, “malcontents”) wherever it can. The number of solid leftists in office lags far behind their proportion of the population (with any ideology to speak of) — and we are pissed off about it! We want to be counted, to show how many of us there are! That’s why I cannot not vote for Lee in the short-term race: because this is our chance to make our mark while establishment Democrats coalesce behind Schiff and Republicans probably sit this one out.

(9) I’m not confident that candidates can legally “make a deal” where Candidate A will agree to pull out of a race and throw their support to Candidate B. (Based on the documents I recall signing when I’ve run for office, it doesn’t work like Presidential primaries; I don’t think that they can endorse someone they’re running against.) But I don’t think that anything stops A from suspending their campaign and expressing a preference for Candidate B over Candidate C. At worst, broad hints would probably suffice even in the absence of specific endorsements.

(10) Given that no quid pro quo is permitted, KATIE PORTER has to take the initiative. She can say that in retrospect, she wishes that she hadn’t felt obliged to enter the short term race because there was already a qualified woman candidate in Barbara Lee whom she’d have cheered on in that race if she wasn’t also in the full-term race. And she can just say that she is no longer going to campaign for the short term race, and will focus only on the long term race (which is of course sort of a joke, as the campaigns overlap 99.9%) and that, if it’s not in the runoff, her she’s sure that her voters will be able to figure out whether they want Steve Garvey as the second candidate in the runoff or another Democrat. Hint-hint.

(11) Even if Lee does not reciprocate with warm thanks towards Porter for giving her props, this would make Porter look good — and it’s a move that Schiff probably couldn’t match. (I suppose that he might want to, but that risks the underfunded Lee losing to Steve Garvey, which would be bad even for four weeks.)

(12) But I think that Lee, knowing that she’d currently just a spoiler in the full-term election, would take the cue and announce that she would no longer be campaigning for the full-term race, but would focus only on the short-term race to give her supporters a place to plant their flags.

(13) I think that the only loser (other then Garvey, for whom it’s just a matter of how and when he loses) is Schiff: and frankly Schiff deserves to have the whole “build up Steve Garvey” tactic blow up in his face! It was not good for anyone (except for him and his supporters) to deprive voters of a good competitive and substantive headline race. This is just as appropriate as that was.

(14) I should say that I prefer any of the three Democrats to Dianne Feinstein (whom I preferred to Senate Republicans, but that’s not a high bar to clear) and wish in particular that she’d never been appointed to, or at least kept her seat on, the Judiciary Committee. Schiff won’t be a disaster and Porter won’t be a Bernie Sanders if either is elected. As for Barbara Lee — I do worry that she could lose a race to Garvey if centrist and conservative Democrats decided to sit it out to prove some disgusting anti-leftist point, as inconceivable as that treachery would seem. (I’ve seen worse.) So to me having the opportunity to cast a symbolic vote for Barbara Lee AND a substantive vote for Katie Porter is pretty much the best of both worlds.

(15) Barbara Lee is giving up more; and she has her dignity on the line — so Katie Porter HAS to make the first move here. She has a week and a half to go before the bulk of the remaining vote comes in on Election Day. If she wants to put this in motion, then Sunday (if she’s on a talk show), Monday, or Tuesday are probably her last viable chances. So if you want to tell Katie to read this piece — you should ideally do it today!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)