Trump Takes Center Stage in California Senate Debate with Four Candidates Clashing

Four candidates for a U.S. Senate seat in California sat down for their first debate on Monday. They are all running for the seat that the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein left open.

A big part was played by Donald Trump, who is expected to be the Republican presidential choice in 2024 but is almost certain to lose badly in the general election in the solidly blue state.

Three Democrats, U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, wanted to show how much they disliked the former president and put the one Republican on stage, former baseball player Steve Garvey, in a tough spot for not saying whether he’d vote for Trump this fall.

“What more do you need to see of what he’s done to be able to say that you will not support him?” Before asking him, Schiff said he “took on” Trump during his first term and called him a “dictator” and “the gravest threat to democracy in our history.”

He said, “Both times, he was the best person for the job,” referring to the 2016 and 2020 elections. People in the crowd laughed when he wouldn’t say whether he’d vote for Trump or Vice President Joe Biden this year. Porter said, “What they say is true: Once a dodger, always a dodger,” referring to Garvey’s time with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The major leagues are not like this. Who are you going to vote for?”

Porter tried to make a name for herself as an economic populist by calling herself a consumer advocate who “took on greedy corporations.” If she won, she said she would “stand up to corporate power” and work to “address income inequality and wealth inequality.”

Porter said, “Special interests have too much power” and “we as Californians—we don’t have enough.” She also said that she wants to ban earmarks and stock trading for Congress members. Earmarks are when lawmakers add spending measures to bills that help specific people.

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Before the March 5 “jungle primary,” in which all candidates are on the same nonpartisan ticket and the top two win, the candidates took part in a debate in Los Angeles put on by the USC Dornsife Center, KTTV-TV, and Politico.

Recent polls show that Schiff is likely to be the front-runner. It’s not clear which of the two other Democrats, Garvey, or Schiff would be the second Democrat to move forward. Porter and Lee tried to get people to vote against Garvey by blaming him over and over for being too conservative for California and hesitating on issues that divided people.

“Abortion is a matter of freedom.” “A government that wants everyone to have freedom and justice should not stop people from choosing for themselves if and when to have a child,” Porter said. “So Mr. Garvey needs to be clear where he stands on this — and, actually, all the other issues.”

Lee explained why she doesn’t want to end the filibuster in the Senate so that abortion rights can be written down. They were asked if that would make it easier for Republicans to ban abortion across the country. She replied, “We have to fight politically to make sure that doesn’t happen.” She wanted to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, which says that public money can’t be used for abortions.

Trump Takes Center Stage in California Senate Debate with Four Candidates Clashing

He tried to find a middle ground between appealing to conservatives and being too radical for the liberal state. When asked twice, he had a hard time coming up with anything he didn’t agree with his party. He said he doesn’t want “one party” to run California and described himself as a “conservative moderate.” After that, he said, “I’m sensible and caring.” I’m building agreement. I believe we should return to that in California.”

“I would not vote for a law that keeps women from having abortions,” he said. “Let’s get that straight away.” Schiff gave the economy a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 during another part of the conversation. Porter gave it a 5 and Lee gave it a 6. Garvey said it’s a “5 at most.”

The debate also showed that the Democrats were divided. Porter made it clear that she was against earmarks, while Schiff and Lee supported the practice. How to deal with the war between Israel and Hamas was one of the most controversial problems in the race. Lee has asked for a cease-fire in Gaza, but Schiff explained why he doesn’t want one.

“I feel terrible about all the Palestinians who have died. To mourn the deaths of innocent people, both Palestinians and Israelis, is not against my view of what it means to be human. “I agree with a two-state solution,” Schiff said. “We need to go back to a two-state plan.” Jerusalem needs to protect itself. “Hamas can’t be in charge of Gaza.”

Porter said that she wants “a permanent cease-fire” to make sure “a bilateral, durable peace” between Israel and the Palestinian territories, but she also said, “Cease-fire is not a magic word.” It’s not possible to say something and have it happen. In contrast to the Democrats, Garvey said he thinks it’s “naive to think that a two-state solution can happen.”

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