Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Steve Garvey announced his candidacy for the United States Senate as a Republican on Tuesday morning.
A move into politics isn’t much of a surprise for Garvey, who spent 14 seasons with the Dodgers before finishing with the San Diego Padres for five seasons. He advocated for fitness-related bills in Washington and considered a political career after retiring from baseball in 1987, though he was sidetracked for a time by personal issues.
However, Garvey claims that the increased animosity in politics, the “bickering back and forth” among politicians, prompted him to take the plunge.
“I’ve had this wonderful life all these years, but I’ve always been interested in politics,” Garvey, 74, said in an interview ahead of the announcement.
“The last few years, I’ve been more and more concerned about what’s happening in our society and the quality of our life and the dysfunction of Washington,” Garvey said. “I’ve got to stand up if there’s a way to actually run and be heard, and I think there is.”
So he’s running to bring “a fresh voice with fresh ideas” to represent California, according to Garvey.
Garvey helped lead the Dodgers to four World Series appearances and was a key figure in their 1981 championship; he also led the Padres to their first World Series appearance in 1984. He was a 10-time All-Star and the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1974, as part of a Dodgers infield that stayed together for a record 8 1/2 seasons.
Few would have been surprised if he ran for office at some point during his career, particularly during his time with the Dodgers. However, his immaculate image was shattered by revelations of multiple affairs, children he fathered, a rather public divorce, and strained-at-best relationships with his first two children. After seemingly living in it for much of the 1970s and 1980s, he faded from view for a long time.
However, much of the focus on that period of his life has faded, and he is mostly remembered as a Southern California baseball legend.
After Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died in late September, announced earlier this year that she would not run for re-election in 2024, Garvey began talking with consultants about a possible run and announced it in June.
Since Feinstein’s announcement — and even before — several candidates have rushed to declare their candidacy for the seat.
Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland, Katie Porter of Irvine, and Adam Schiff of Burbank are among the Democrats, as is former tech executive Lexi Reese.
It’s unclear whether Sen. Laphonza Butler, a former union leader appointed by Gov. Gavin Newson and sworn into the Senate after Feinstein’s death, will run as well.
On the Republican side, in addition to Garvey, there’s attorney Eric Early, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2018 and 2022, and a few other candidates with no statewide name ID.
Name ID isn’t the biggest issue for Garvey — though reintroducing himself is one of the first things on his campaign to-do list, he says — and he’s drawing heavily on his baseball background in the race. His campaign message is juxtaposed with coverage of his athletic career in his launch video: “It’s time to take a seat. It’s time to put on your uniform. “It’s time to get back in the game,” he says in the commercial.
Nonetheless, his entry into the race raises the question of whether a Republican can win in a state where Democrats hold every statewide office and dominate the legislative and congressional delegations. Could a baseball star running on the Republican ticket be successful in a state where Republicans have struggled for years to find candidates for top offices, despite being outnumbered about 2-to-1 by Democratic voters?
“If Garvey is going to duplicate his success, his chances get much better if he runs the same type of campaign that (former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) did,” Dan Schnur, a former campaign consultant who teaches political messaging at UC Berkeley and USC, has said.
“Part of what made (Schwarzenegger) different is that he was extremely well-known,” said Schnur. “The other thing that made him different was his ability to combine a conservative economic message with a more centrist approach on social issues.”
The last time a Republican was elected to the United States Senate was in 1988, when Pete Wilson was re-elected to his final term before becoming governor of California.
Garvey says he’s not running for the party label. He intends to concentrate on reaching consensus, as if he were rebuilding a team. When asked what issues are driving his campaign, he said they are “quality of life” issues such as the economy, public safety, and education.
“Yes, I’ve got a ‘R’ next to my name, but in order to run for all the people, people have to know I care about all of them,” he said. “Somebody needs to bring people together.”
“Sure, I’ll be a rookie,” he told me, “but I’d like to think I’ll be a well-prepared rookie who has had life experiences who can represent the people of California and the people of this country.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to Democrats’ performance in the previous two California U.S. Senate races. Mark Meuser, a Republican, ran against Sen. Alex Padilla in the general election for the special and regular elections for the United States Senate in 2022.