California's Senate hopefuls set to take debate stage Monday

With less than two months until California's primary election, the top four candidates in the state's Senate race are gearing up for the first televised debate of the year next week in Los Angeles.

Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee will join Republican and former baseball star Steve Garvey onstage at USC’s Bovard Auditorium 6 p.m. Monday, on the heels of state polls showing the race is far from clinched.

The debate, hosted by POLITICO, will be moderated by Fox 11 News anchor Elex Michaelson and POLITICO reporter Melanie Mason. The four taking the stage qualified through a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll in December, grabbing the top spots in a race that has drawn over two dozen additional candidates.

The top four are running to fill the late-Dianne Feinstein's seat, which she held for 30 years until her death in September at the age of 90. As a result, voters will be be faced with two Senate races on their March primary ballots — one for the remainder of Feinstein's term ending Jan. 3, 2025, and the other for a full six-year term ending 2031. The same goes for November ballots, when the top two vote-getters in the primary will duke it out for the seat.

What to expect:

Latest polling has Schiff in a 4-point lead over Porter, while support for Garvey has surged, nearly doubling since August. Lee fell to the bottom of the pack in the IGS Berkeley Poll, garnering 9%, while 21% of likely voters remain undecided.

Garvey's sudden success has been a topline interest among election watchers over the past week, potentially disrupting a race that was largely expected to be a battle dominated by Democratic candidates. California is one of just a few states using a top-two system in primary elections, mandating the candidates with the highest votes regardless of party affiliation go on to compete in the November general election.

More: Schiff has narrow lead over Porter, other rivals in US Senate race, poll says

It's this system, coupled with Garvey's growing support, that could result in an interesting dynamic this year, according to Sacramento State University Political Science Professor Wesley Hussey.

"Garvey has done a very good job of consolidating the Republican vote, and its kind of a spiral — the more votes he collects, the more people talk and the more name recognition, and he could become a major Republican candidate," Hussey said. "So, if you have these major Democrats running, that could split the Democratic vote and then Garvey gets the second spot.”

Though the three Democratic hopefuls met onstage for a forum early October, Monday's debate will be the first time voters get a prolonged look at Garvey behind a rostrum. The former Dodgers and Padres baseball star enters the race as a political newcomer, up against three members of Congress.

"The debate will be more opportunity for confrontation or discussion of difference among candidates," Hussey said. "It’s a potential landmine, or candidates could reach out to certain groups of voters that haven’t thought of them."

How to watch:

The debate will air on FOX 11(KTTV) in Los Angeles and on Fox 2 (KTVU) in the Bay Area, or livestreamed on and

The debate is also supported by California Environmental Voters Education Fund, Courage California Institute, East Bay Community Legal Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and USC student organizations.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California's Senate Race to Hold First Debate