U.S. Senate Debate at USC
February 1, 2024
The US Senate Primary Debate for California took place at the University of Southern California on January 22nd, featuring the three Democratic candidates: U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee trading barbs with the only Republican candidate, former professional baseball player Steve Garvey.
I arrived on a rainy Monday before the debate, and my director and photographer met me at the debate hall entrance. We collected our press wristbands that gave us access to the event, and were escorted up to the media room by a student volunteer. The room wasn't big, but it had a few rows of tables and chairs, and a large TV screen at the front, which showcased local news. Other reporters were already there, and I was feeling anxious.
It was interesting to watch the debate, and see the reactions of the other reporters to things that were said on the stage. Candidates were asked questions about border security, Israel, housing, student debt, abortion rights, healthcare, and other topics.
When asked about housing prices, Schiff offered solutions, and promised to bring back millions of housing units. Garvey wanted to get back to the economy, and wanted people to build businesses. Porter said Washington and corrupt predatory CEOs are the problem, such as Wall Street. Years ago, Lee had been unhoused, and she believes housing is a human right. She also wanted to make college tuition free.
On the topic of healthcare, Porter firmly supported Medicare for All. Garvey said Medicare for All would be a strain, and believes it would be a problem for the economy. Schiff added that he wanted Medicare where everyone could participate. Lee said healthcare shouldn't be an industry; it shouldn't be money-driven, and agrees with Medicare for All.
When asked what would happen if Trump were brought back into office, Garvey replied that we should respect whoever gets elected, no matter who it is. Rep. Schiff said that, if he does get elected, it'll be really bad. Lee stated that she would fight to make sure he doesn't get voted in again. Porter added that it would set us back in making democracy. We would lose our military officers because they wouldn't want to serve under Trump. Schiff questioned Garvey about his loyalty to Trump, and Garvey said Trump was the best person for the job at the time, in both the 2016 and 2020 elections. He also said that we were safer under Trump than President Joe Biden. Porter disagreed, and Schiff questioned how true Garvey's statement about safety under Trump was, bringing up January 6th. Garvey remained firm, repeating that, "It's a personal choice."
Rep. Lee, speaking about homelessness, said we have to understand what is necessary for people to not become unhoused in the first place. Porter said it was a result of Washington's failure to deliver a good housing bill, and stated how there isn't a committee for housing; it's just a subcommittee of banking. Garvey asked the last time they had talked to a homeless person. Garvey called the other candidates career politicians, and said, "You're complaining about Washington, well you are Washington." All three rebutted, and Schiff finished by explaining how he thought the housing crisis was a supply problem.
When asked about who inspired them, Schiff said it was his father and talked about learning to stand up to bullies. Lee said her mother, who told her to never back down. Porter answered her kids, who allow her to look to the future. Garvey said his parents and Ronald Reagan.
Garvey, when asked about abortion and other issues, said he would voice the opinions of the Californian people. Porter, when asked, said firmly that she didn't believe him. She pointed out how he wasn't picking a side in a lot of the questions. She also claimed that Schiff hadn't actually helped abortion laws, although his list of accomplishments states it. Schiff argued back that he had. Lee agreed that abortion should be a right. Garvey says he wouldn't vote for a ban of abortion rights. Schiff again questioned Garvey about his loyalty to Trump, and Schiff explained how he was the only one who constantly stood up to Trump, and he would do it again.
After the debate, I asked the candidates questions in the spin room. When asked why Gen Z should vote for him, Adam Schiff said, "Because I want to address issues that are important to Gen Z. I want to make sure that college is affordable, that we forgive student debt, and that we don't require students to become indebted to begin with to get a college education. I want to make sure that when you graduate you can afford a home, I want to bring down the cost of housing, I want to build hundreds of thousands of new units, I want to address issues like homelessness that young people care so deeply about. I want to address climate change too. This is the existential challenge of them all, if we don't aggressively move to attack climate change, the planet will become uninhabitable."
To the same question about Gen Z voters, Katie Porter brought up similar topics, adding, "We need multi-generational leadership that's part of diverse leadership, and so I think the California that I have known ... I think that's where our young people are looking. Are we going to have affordable housing for people who graduate, and get good jobs? Are we going to address the climate crisis so that our communities are resilient and we can continue to live there? I think my future orientation and my willingness to call out Washington as usual [will help]."
It was an eventful night, and the debate was more exciting and fast-paced than I had expected. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.
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