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California 2024 Primary Senate Race: why does it matter?

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Absence of incumbent Senator Feinstein sparks a competitive contest in the California 2024 Primaries. USC Price experts explain how a unique system could lead to two democrats facing off in the Fall on issues like housing and abortion. 

The race to replace the late U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has become highly competitive and may lead to one of the most exciting elections in California’s recent history.

When is the next primary election in California and who’s running? 

California voters will be able to cast their ballots in the next primary election on March 5, 2024.  Major candidates include Democratic U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, and Republican businessman Steve Garvey. 

Why does the U.S. Senate race in California matter?

For the first time in three decades, Feinstein’s name is not on the ballot, creating a real contest with the absence of an incumbent senator. USC Price School professor Mindy Romero, emphasizes that this absence opens the door for a candidate who may better represent contemporary Californians, diverging from someone first elected 30 years ago.

The California primary election system allows voters the unique ability to choose any candidate, regardless of party, with the top two advancing to the general election. The senate race in California matters because this system adds an element of unpredictability, potentially leading to two Democrats facing off in the fall.

The big issues in the California 2024 primary

USC Price experts expect affordable housing, homelessness, and abortion to be top of mind for voters in the California 2024 primaries. Abortion access, in particular, has emerged as a significant motivator for voters following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Master of Public Administration Online Faculty Director Dora Kingsley Vertenten highlights that although California protects women’s right to abortion, control of the U.S. Senate is crucial in shaping federal abortion law. Vertenten notes, “It’s not a question of where they stand on abortion, as much as it’s going to be an intensity about where they stand on that issue. How intense do they feel about it? How hard are they going to work? That will be a consideration.”

The departure of long-standing senator Feinstein marks a shift in California’s representation. USC experts suggest that the state may lose senior leaders on important committees, but the new senators will still wield influence due to California’s size and fundraising capabilities. 

“California is never going to lose stature by virtue of our size,” Kingsley Vertenten said. “The senators will have large staffs and lots of clout because California has always been the fundraising machine for the Democratic Party. That’s not going to change, and those senators are going to be the gateway to that money.”

In fact, Price faculty speculate the winner of the California 2024 primary election is likely to become a political star and even a potential future presidential candidate.

Read the full USC Price story.

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