MICHAEL R. BLOOD | AP News
Former tech executive Lexi Reese announced Thursday that she is entering California’s 2024 U.S. Senate contest, adding another Democrat to a growing field of candidates that already includes three members of Congress.
The Google and Facebook veteran enters the contest to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein as a virtual unknown in the nation’s most populous state, home to 22 million voters. In her first run for office she is hoping to distinguish herself as an outsider — “a new candidate with a fresh message,” her advisers say.
That would contrast with established politicians already in the race: Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee. “The California dream is dying,” Reese says in an online video launching her campaign. “Millions of families are working hard but barely getting by. It is time to work together to build a better future together.”
Reese filed a statement of candidacy with federal election regulators on June 15, designated a committee to raise funds and indicated she intended to spend personal funds on the campaign. It typically takes tens of millions of dollars to wage a successful statewide campaign in the vast state, which includes some of the nation’s most expensive media markets. It’s not clear how much Reese intends to spend from her personal funds on campaigning. Schiff, for example, had $25 million in his campaign account at the end of March and is likely to have millions more after second-quarter fundraising concludes at the end of June.
With the centrist Feinstein in the twilight of her career, the race in the heavily Democratic state already is shaping up as a showcase for an ambitious, younger generation on the party’s left wing. The seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands — a Republican hasn’t won a Senate race in the state since 1988. And as a first-time candidate, Reese enters the race without an established base of support in a field already splintered by Democratic candidates.
Reese’s website is largely devoted to introducing herself to voters, and asks them to send her an online message about the good and bad of living in the state. Beyond the challenges faced by a first-time candidate, veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick warned that a divided Democratic vote could have an unintended advantage – for Republicans.
In California’s last two Senate races, only Democrats advanced to the general election under the state’s top-two election system, in which only the top two primary vote-getters face off in November. “If you have four Democrats in the race who are all running significant campaigns, you are going to open the back door for a Republican to be in the (November) runoff,” Carrick said. “If you divide the Democratic vote by four and somebody is able to become the dominant Republican, you increase the chances you have a Democratic-Republican runoff” in November, Carrick said.
Former baseball MVP and Republican Steve Garvey, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, is considering getting into the race. He would join GOP attorney Eric Early — an unsuccessful candidate for state attorney general in 2022 and 2018 and for Congress in 2020. In recent election cycles, California Republicans have targeted criticism at the state’s Democratic-dominated government, faulting the rival party for notoriously high taxes, a homeless crisis, troubling urban crime rates, and out-of-reach housing prices for many working-class families.
Reese’s advisers say she had an opening: Many voters remain undecided with the March primary election still months away, and even the leading Democrats are not broadly known across the state. At Google, she was vice president for global programmatic platforms, among other roles.
The Harvard Business School graduate also has worked for American Express. In her video, Reese recalled challenges in her past — her father lost a longtime job, her parents divorced, her siblings struggled with addiction and a brother died trying to recover. “I understand what financial uncertainty can do to a family,” she said.
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