That decision opened the way for a competitive primary race. Dozens of candidates jumped into the race, but four have emerged as the leading candidates: three Democratic members of Congress and a former major-league baseball star. They are scheduled to appear onstage together for the first time this evening, for a debate at the University of Southern California, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The foursome includes Adam Schiff, 63, Democrat of Burbank, currently the front-runner in polls and well known for having served as the lead prosecutor in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump; Katie Porter, 50, an Orange County Democrat who has regularly polled in second place; Barbara Lee, 77, Democrat of Oakland and a longtime progressive; and Steve Garvey, 75, a former first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres and the only Republican among the four.
Under California’s open primary system, they are all competing in the same March 5 primary, and the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the general election in November to determine the winner.
(Technically, there are two elections for the seat being held at the same time: One to fill the seat from Election Day until the end of the current term on Dec. 31, and another for the new six-year term that will follow. Voters will cast ballots in both primaries on March 5, and both general elections on Nov. 5. The same four candidates are leading the pack in both races.)
Garvey, the Republican, could have an outsize impact on the race, experts say. Porter, Lee and Schiff are expected to split the Democratic votes, while Garvey seems to be gaining traction among Republicans as the party’s only candidate with significant name identification.