LOS ANGELES — Steve Garvey is known for his plays on the field, but now he’s making a play at politics.
Garvey, 74, a former National League MVP who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, is jumping into California’s crowded U.S. Senate race as a Republican, hoping to win the seat the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein occupied for more than three decades.
“We need fresh voices; we need new ideas. We need people who are going to be exactly that: for the people,” Garvey, who played first base for the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres through the 1970s and the 1980s, said in an interview. “Simply, I’m running for all the people — the things that affect the daily lives of people in California.”
Garvey said he decided to run because of his frustration with the current state of politics. He said “family issues” — including the economy and inflation, crime and education — are the focus of his campaign.
“Many people know me; they know my name,” he said. “I think people will believe in me, and they’ll feel that their voice becomes my voice and I’ll go to bat for them every day.”
Garvey is the highest-profile Republican to enter the race, but even with his star power, he faces an uphill battle. In California, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by about 2-to-1, and a Republican has not won a U.S. Senate race since 1988.
He also enters an already competitive primary that includes Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee. Newly sworn-in Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler — whom Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed to temporarily fill Feinstein’s seat after she died last month — could also jump into the race but has not yet revealed her plans.
A video announcing Garvey’s candidacy begins by highlighting his 19-year major-league baseball career and shows images of him on the field, greeting fans and talking to Californians.
“I played in front of millions of fans. I never played for Democrats or Republicans or independents. I played for all of you,” he says. “Now I’m running for U.S. Senate in California — a state that I believe at one time was the heartbeat of America and now is just a murmur.”
Garvey’s voiceover goes on to say he will run a “common sense campaign” and adds: “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.”
California State University, Fullerton political science professor Sarah Hill said the crowded field of Democrats could make it easier for a Republican like Garvey to make it past California’s primary to the general election.
“We have the top-two primary in California, where the top two candidates from the primary move on to the general election, and that’s regardless of party, and so Democrats could get enough of the vote in California that they can have two people move on to the general,” Hill said. “But if they split the field too much, a solid Republican can sneak in.”
Even if that scenario does play out, Hill said, it is unlikely California voters would elect a Republican to the critical Senate seat.
“You would need a Republican who is kind of along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is conservative on finances, so lower taxes, that kind of thing, tough on crime, but then more moderate on things like abortion and same-sex marriage and issues like that,” she said. “They would be fairly popular, but I still don’t think they’d win.”
On the issue of abortion, Garvey said in the interview he would not vote for any bill that would restrict abortion access.
“As a senator from California, I will pledge to uphold the voice of the people,” he said.
“I’m big on free will and choice. I think God gave us that and in what we choose in life and what we choose to do,” he said. “In this case, to be a senator from this great state means you pledge to listen to the people and uphold their wishes.”
Asked about the challenges of running as a Republican in California, Garvey said he believes California voters are looking for a change.
“There’s been a malaise with the people of California. They’ve just given up that they’ve heard one voice and they don’t feel like they have a voice, so they wish somebody would stand up and fight for them, and nobody has,” he said. “And so I think it’s time for somebody to stand up, and that’s me.”