Primary Concerns: A Conversation with Ewan Barker Plummer, Chair of the SF Youth Commission, on Adam Schiff’s Win

Adam Schiff, photo courtesy of Schiff’s campaign for Senate.

Following California’s Mar. 5. primary election for U.S. Senate, Representative Adam Schiff appears to have secured the seat of late Senator Dianne Feinstein.  

I spoke with the Chair of the San Francisco Youth Commission, Ewan Barker Plummer, a sophomore politics major at USF, about the primary results and the consequences of Schiff’s strategy.

One of Schiff’s Democratic opponents, Rep. Katie Porter, claims the election was rigged  because Schiff spent $21 million promoting Republican candidate Steve Garvey, according to POLITICO. A preliminary Berkeley-IGS poll found that if the November election was a Porter-Schiff matchup, the race would have been tied, versus a Schiff-Garvey matchup which forecasts Schiff winning by 15%. This approach is called the “pied piper” strategy. 

Barker Plummer said Porter’s claims of election rigging were “harmful” and “wrong,” a position held by many other Democrats, such as Calif. Senator Alex Padilla. Katie Porter herself later stated that she regrets saying the race was rigged.

“I don’t think that we should have Democrats who are claiming elections that were perfectly legitimate, especially like they are here in California, should be using words like rigged. I think that is problematic,” Barker Plummer continued. The president of the independent California Voter Foundation concurs that the state has “one of the most secure voting processes in the country.”

While Barker Plummer disagrees with the notion that the primary election was “rigged,” he acknowledges some flaws within the election process. He said, “[there’s] a money problem in our elections…. we have no limitations on outside spending.” 

Candidates play the game dictated by Citizens United v. F.E.C., a 2010 Supreme Court case that allows companies to donate unlimited amounts to political candidates through political action committees or “PACs.”  Porter’s campaign used the claim of “never [having] taken corporate PAC money, never traded individual stocks in office, and reject[ing] donations from federal lobbyists,” as a tenet of her electoral strategy. Contrary to her claim, OpenSecrets reveals that Porter took about $5,000 from corporate PACs.

Schiff raised nearly half a million dollars from PACs, according to OpenSecrets, and turned around and spent $21 million on advertisements for Garvey. This loaned advertising sum was greater than the T.V. spending campaigns of both President Joe Biden and Donald Trump combined in the same time period.

By advertising a dichotomy between the views of Schiff and Garvey in the primaries, Schiff boxed out his two Democratic opponents, Porter and Rep. Barbara Lee, while boosting the popularity of a Republican he will likely defeat in the fall.

Barker Plummer concluded our conversation by acknowledging the importance of women’s representation, given current attacks on reproductive rights. “I think it’s really important that we have women in leadership positions and be advocates. I’m not the right spokesperson…  And neither is Adam Schiff.”

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, Opinion Editor: Chisom Okorafor

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