Adam Schiff dominates rivals in fundraising for California’s U.S. Senate race
Adam Schiff raised more than $8 million in recent months for his bid to succeed Dianne Feinstein. But fellow Democratic representative Katie Porter tops him in a new poll, and Barbara Lee remains in the fight.
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Rep. Adam B. Schiff swamped his rivals in the financial race to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein, raising $8.2 million in recent months, according to federal fundraising reports released Saturday.
Schiff collected roughly double the combined total raised by his top Democratic opponents — Reps. Katie Porter and Barbara Lee — in the same period.
Schiff’s windfall was fueled by his June censure by congressional Republicans over his role in investigating former GOP President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — a reprimand the Burbank Democrat repeatedly highlighted in his fundraising appeals.
“Schiff might as well have paid for this censure, in the sense that it has gotten him exactly what he wants, which is, ‘I’m the person Republicans don’t want to win, and that’s for a reason,’” said Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School. “Even though he’s such an eloquent and well-spoken lawyer, I don’t know that he could have made the case for himself in the way Republicans did.”
Schiff’s haul far outpaced Porter, an Irvine Democrat who raised $3.1 million in the second quarter of 2023. But she led Schiff 19% to 16% in a poll of likely voters released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California. Lee had the support of 13%.
In recent years, Schiff and Porter have been among the most prodigious fundraisers in the House. But Porter had to spend nearly $29 million on her tight Orange County reelection bid last year, while Schiff coasted to another term in office and banked his donations.
Lee, an Oakland Democrat, received $1.1 million between April 1 and June 30, according to disclosure documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, which were made public on Saturday. That’s the same amount raised by Democrat Lexi Reese, a Silicon Valley executive seeking the seat in her first run for public office, though Reese contributed about $284,000 of her own money to her campaign.
Though the general election is more than a year away, these figures are crucial in early assessments of the candidates’ prospects as they vie for a rare open Senate seat representing California, home to some of the most expensive media markets in the nation. Television advertising is a requisite in any statewide campaign courting California’s 22 million voters.
Feinstein, 90, was known for breaking gender barriers even before she was first elected to the Senate in 1992’s “Year of the Woman,” when a record number of female candidates won seats in Congress.
The San Francisco Democrat has been lauded by colleagues of both parties for her intelligence and devotion to her work. But concerns about Feinstein’s declining mental and physical capabilities reached a crescendo in recent months, and she announced in February that she would not seek another term next year.
Several Republicans are also running for Feinstein’s Senate seat, but their prospects are dim due to California’s progressive tilt. Californians last elected a GOP politician to a statewide office in 2006, and have grown more liberal since then. Democrats accounted for 47% of registered voters, Republicans for 24% and voters who do not express a party preference for 22% as of Feb. 10, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Eric Early, a GOP attorney running for the Senate seat, reported raising $201,176 through June 30. Republican James Bradley, a Coast Guard veteran and former health care executive, had not filed a fundraising report as of Saturday afternoon.
The race to replace Feinstein is further complicated by California’s “jungle” primary system, in which the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the November general election, regardless of their party. The primary is scheduled to take place in March.
If two Democrats emerge as the winners of the primary, their battle will continue until November, and tens of millions of dollars will be spent on the contest. If a Republican claims one of the top two spots, the Democrat they face will have a seemingly insurmountable advantage.
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Schiff and Porter, frequent cable news guests who are popular among liberal voters for their respective opposition to Trump and to corporate chiefs, have been among the top fundraisers in Congress in recent years.
But since they started running against one another for Feinstein’s seat, Schiff has outpaced Porter. In the first three months of 2023, he raised $6.5 million and spent $2.8 million, while Porter raised $4.5 million and spent $2.5 million, according to federal election records.
Their financial disparity grew in the second quarter of this year, with Schiff raising $8.2 million and spending $3.3 million, and Porter raising $3.1 million and spending $2.2 million, according to the FEC. As of June 30, Schiff had $29.8 million in cash on hand, while Porter had $10.4 million. They have more money in their bank accounts than they have raised due to transfers from their congressional campaign committees.
Lee’s campaign finances continue to lag behind those of her congressional colleagues in the race; she reported raising $1.1 million in the second quarter and spending $817,000. She had $1.4 million in the bank as of June 30.
As Schiff highlights his fight with Trump in fundraising appeals, and Porter points to her experience as a single mom serving in Congress and offers meal-planning tips, Lee — a Black woman who has served in the House of Representatives since 1998 — emphasizes the racial disparities in the nation’s Capitol. Only two African American women have ever been elected to the Senate.
“We love you, Barbara. We think you would make a great senator. But Adam Schiff, he just looks like a senator,” Lee wrote in an email to supporters, paraphrasing comments she has received. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this on the campaign trail. And I’ll be honest, it breaks my heart.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.