California's Senatorial Hopefuls: Navigating Critical Issues

California's Senatorial Hopefuls: Navigating Critical Issues
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, attends a Hanukkah holiday reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Schiff is a likely contender in the 2024 California Senate race. (Alex Wong, Staff / Getty Images)

In the race for California's next U.S. senator, candidates are vying to present themselves in distinct lights. Rep. Adam Schiff champions himself as a defender of democracy, Rep. Katie Porter as an anti-corruption crusader, and Rep. Barbara Lee as a courageous progressive. On the Republican side, Eric Early positions himself as a champion for the "forgotten Americans," while Steve Garvey emphasizes his role as a commonsense consensus builder.

However, campaign ads, slogans, and speeches only scratch the surface of who these contenders are and what they bring to the table in addressing California's most pressing concerns. As three Democrats—Schiff, Porter, and Lee—gear up for their first debate, CalMatters delves into their records, stances, and plans on critical issues such as border security, immigration, crime, guns, foreign policy, defense, economy, labor, and housing.

Border and Immigration

The three Democratic candidates share a similar track record on immigration and border security, voting against Republican proposals to limit asylum eligibility and condemn the use of public school facilities to shelter migrants. They support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, oversight on border security, and expanding unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants seeking work.

While all three criticize President Biden's policy on asylum seekers, they differ in their views on a generic border wall. Lee appears to be the staunchest critic of allocating more funds to federal border patrol agencies, advocating for a 50% budget cut for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

On the Republican side, Garvey and Early support the border wall, additional funding for border patrol agents, and tightened restrictions on border entries. They oppose offering undocumented immigrants unemployment benefits, with Early expressing support for a path to citizenship for those who have enlisted in the military.

Crime and Guns

Despite shared ground on investing in mental health services and policing to address crime, the devil lies in the details. Democrats emphasize police reform, mental health treatment, and raising the minimum wage to address the root causes of crime. In contrast, Republicans call for more funding for police departments and border security.

While all Democrats support common-sense gun measures, Republicans align with party lines on issues like the federal death penalty.

Foreign Policy and Defense

The Democratic candidates exhibit nuanced differences in foreign policy, with Lee standing out for her consistent calls to cut the nation's "bloated" defense budget. Schiff and Porter emphasize humanitarian pauses in conflicts, with Schiff advocating for reducing the Pentagon's budget by 10%. Republicans, in contrast, support increasing the defense budget and prioritize Israel's ability to combat threats.

Economy and Labor

In addressing inflation, Democrats blame corporate greed, while Republicans point fingers at excessive government spending. Democrats advocate for a federal minimum wage increase, with Lee calling for a $50 hourly minimum wage. Republicans believe that states should decide on right-to-work laws and oppose federal intervention in disputes between unions and businesses.

Homelessness and Housing

While Democrats attribute California's homelessness crisis to a lack of affordable housing, Republicans focus on mental health problems and addiction. Democrats support major investments in housing and expanding Section 8 programs, while Republicans stress easing regulations and offering tax incentives for affordable housing.

In this intricate web of policy positions, the candidates present a spectrum of ideas and approaches to address California's multifaceted challenges. As the race unfolds, voters must carefully consider the nuances that differentiate these contenders on the critical issues shaping the future of the Golden State.

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