California baseball legend Steve Garvey launched a campaign on Tuesday as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that was held by the late Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein.
The 74-year-old Garvey, a former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman, brings star power that could distinguish his candidacy in a crowded field.
California, which has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1988, will vote in the November 2024 general election to fill Feinstein's seat. After Feinstein's death on Sept. 29, California governor Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler, a former labor leader and head of the political action committee Emily's List, to serve out the remainder of Feinstein's term.
So far, 14 candidates—including six Republicans—plan to run next year, according to Federal Election Commission data. The most prominent Democratic candidates are three current members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff. Butler has not said whether she will seek election to the seat.
Garvey, who left baseball in 1987, told Reuters in an interview on Monday that he would run as a common-sense candidate and look to tackle quality-of-life issues in the high-cost state.
With his folksy manner and his celebrity, the former Most Valuable Player and All-Star might be more likely to make it through California's so-called jungle primary, which advances the top two vote-getters regardless of party, to the general election. From there, Garvey could pose more of a challenge to Democrats' razor-thin majority in the Senate than most California Republicans.
Feinstein, running against fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon in her last general election for the Senate seat, won with 54 percent of the vote, her thinnest margin since her election to her first full Senate term in 1994.
"I never took the field for Democrats or Republicans or independents," Garvey said on Monday, standing in the shadow of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. "I took the field for all the fans, and now I'm running for all the people."
Garvey declined to describe his politics in detail and would not say whether he supported former president Donald Trump's bid to become the Republican Party's nominee for the 2024 presidential election.
"Come a year from now, when I go to vote, I'll look at the candidates and I'll vote for the one that I think is best for the country and for the people," he said.
Garvey did, however, call for a change in the rules that led to last week's ousting of Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Californian, as House of Representatives speaker.
"That so few people could take down the speaker of the House of Representatives is sad," he said, referring to the small group of right-wing Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy.
Since leaving baseball, Garvey has done charity work for health-related organizations including Ronald McDonald House and the ALS Society, and run a business working with companies on branding corporate awareness, his campaign said.
Baseball was good training for the rough-and-tumble of U.S. politics, Garvey said, because he "had the opportunity to be up, with the game on the line, when 50,000 people were booing me."
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Omar Younis in Los Angeles; editing by Leslie Adler)