U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee was among the California Senate candidates who exposed Republican rival Steve Garvey as being out of touch during a debate on Monday night in Los Angeles.
While each of the three Democratic Congressmembers – including Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff – had their fair share of zingers against the upstart pro-Trump candidate, an exchange about homelessness that Garvey had with Lee proved to be a prime example of his tone-deafness on the issues.
When the debate turned to the topic of the unhoused crisis, Garvey bragged that he had engaged with homeless people while out on the campaign trail and even “touched them and listened to them.” Garvey challenged his opponents and asked when the last time was that they had done the same.
Lee, who has made no secret of having been homeless before her success in politics, was offended at Garvey’s notion.
“I’ve just gotta say, as someone who’s been unsheltered, I cannot believe how he described his walk and touching,” Lee said.
Steve Garvey: When’s the last time any of you talked to the homeless? Touched them?
Barbara Lee: Mr. Garvey, I WAS homeless.
Bring in the stretcher, Garvey is done. https://t.co/keI5wFE5Km
— Trevenclaw (@Trevenclaw) January 23, 2024
Politico reported that the “audience burst into laughter” following Lee’s response to Garvey.
Lee later suggested on social media that she found Garvey’s approach to the homelessness crisis to be inconsiderate at best.
“Steve, individuals who are unhoused are not a spectacle for you to ‘touch.’ They are real people who deserve a Senator that treats them with respect,” Lee posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, along with video footage of the candidates at the debate.
— Barbara Lee (@BarbaraLeeForCA) January 23, 2024
The debate was also a moment for Lee to further distinguish herself as the lone and unequivocally anti-war candidate in the race. Lee’s calls for an unconditional ceasefire in Gaza were something none of the other Senate hopefuls would commit to.
Lee, who has a documented history of being a pacifist, was among the first elected officials to call for an unconditional ceasefire in what critics have called the Israeli-led “genocide” of Palestinians following an attack by the Hamas militant group in October.
“The only way Israel is going to be secure is through a permanent cease-fire,” Lee said before adding later: “Killing 25,000 civilians, it’s catastrophic, and it will never lead to peace for the Israelis, nor the Palestinians.”
Monday night wasn’t the first time Lee checked Garvey.
Shortly after the former Major League Baseball pitcher declared his candidacy in October, Lee warned about Trump’s influence on the conservative candidate.
“An inexperienced, pro-Trump, anti-choice Republican who refuses to call out clear threats to our democracy? For US Senate in California?” Lee asked in a social media post. “HARD PASS.”
As the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing using military force in response to the Sep.t 11 terror attacks – a response that led to separate misdirected and protracted wars that included more than 100,000 deaths – Lee has a record of being on the right side of history, particularly in the face of partisan pressure.
For all those who said “we should’ve listened to Barbara Lee” re: Iraq War, guess what… you’ve got a chance to get it right this time. https://t.co/qcwbnkxmVH
— Cliff Albright (@cliff_notes) January 23, 2024
As such, Lee drew attention for being the only California Senate candidate to vote to expel now-former New York Rep. George Santos from Congress.
Lee made it clear that she was none too pleased with Porter and Schiff for not joining her in voting to oust Santos, who is currently facing 23 felony charges related to fraud, identity theft and falsification of records.
“George Santos lied about everything—from 9/11 and the Holocaust to his own name. He defrauded voters, stole money, and faces criminal charges in two countries. I voted to expel him from Congress today.” Lee posted on X in November before going on to personally call out Porter for voting to spare Santos and Schiff for not voting at all.
George Santos lied about everything—from 9/11 and the Holocaust to his own name.
He defrauded voters, stole money, and faces criminal charges in two countries.
— Barbara Lee (@BarbaraLeeForCA) November 2, 2023
The campaign for U.S. Senate in California has also included the appointment of Laphonza Butler to the seat that was vacated by the death of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
After Feinstein announced she would not seek reelection, California Gov. Gavin Newsom in May publicly pledged to fill her seat, if necessary, on an interim basis with a Black woman. It was at least the second time Newsom went on record with that vow.
Prior to Feinstein’s death, Newsom clarified that not only would he make an “interim appointment” of a Black woman for any Senate vacancy but the person he chose would not be an existing candidate for Feinstein’s seat.
Newsom’s response was “insulting,” Lee said.
“The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election,” Lee responded. “Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”
After Newsom appointed Butler, Lee said she would work with the new senator while also being “singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate.”
Lee’s polling rankings have fluctuated over the months.
In the latest poll released earlier this month, Lee was in fourth place with 9% of voters’ support, trailing Schiff, Porter and Garvey, who all polled in the double-digits.
However, a Politico poll from late last month showed Lee with 14% to put her “in a dead heat for second place.”
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