After the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein this past September, Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee are regarded as the three election frontrunners for the California State Senate Seat, with the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies October polling results showing 17%, 16%, and 9% support respectively. All three prospective senators are from the Democratic party with similar platforms, and until recently, the variation in their campaigns was slight.
At the Oct. 8 National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) Senate Candidate Forum, all three representatives spoke, and they reached a diversion regarding the action they’re calling for concerning the Israel-Hamas War. Barbara Lee’s stance established her individualism in the Senate run, and has created the opportunity to build off of growing social movements to further her campaign.
Both Schiff and Porter support increasing American aid for Israel, with some difference in opinion on how best to handle actionable defense and the broader issue of global terrorism. In turn, their platforms remain fairly interchangeable, making Lee’s stance on the Israel-Hamas War striking in comparison and appealing to a different social demographic.
Reminiscent of her voting choices in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, in which she cast the only vote against the 2001 war in Afghanistan, Lee is calling for a cease-fire in Palestine. During the NUHW Senate Candidate Forum, she expressed her empathy for both Israeli and Palestinian victims, but provided her thoughts on the United States’ role in the conflict succinctly.
“Our country has a responsibility, I believe, to call for a cease-fire and to call for the whole world to come together to try to stop the escalation of what is taking place in the Middle East.
And peace is possible if we can bring all parties together to talk,” she said.
Lee’s call for diplomacy within the Middle East echoes the results of a CBS News survey published Oct. 19 which asked respondents about their feelings on U.S. action regarding the Israel-Hamas war. Results showed 72% of those surveyed believed the United States should be engaging in diplomacy within the region. The overwhelming majority were calling for less militant approaches, and across California, there has been a wave of support calling for similar U.S. action.
Throughout the state, there have been thousands calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Protests have taken place in many of the major cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco. Oakland, of which Barbara Lee is the Congressional Representative, has seen people of all ages take to the antiwar movement as they denounce the violence unfolding in the Middle East.
These protests reiterate Barbara Lee’s stance in contrast to her Senate competitors, and the 30% of undecided voters across California now have a way to distinguish the Representatives and their policy beliefs. Coverage of the Israel-Hamas war has encompassed major media publications, and the protests calling for a cease-fire are growing every week in California. Thousands feel strongly about the role the United States should play in this global conflict. Voting for an official who will lobby for those same policy beliefs would not be unfounded, given that on an executive level people are beginning to lobby their votes over the Israel-Hamas war and the United States’ response. Considering her advocacy for a ceasefire in Gaza, Barbara Lee may begin seeing new support from California voters.
For the thousands who have protested, and the many cities seeing calls for a cease-fire and humanitarian aid, the Senate election is an opportunity to broaden that voice to the U.S. Government. Barbara Lee was trailing behind her competitors in the October polls, but the significance of her stance and broad coverage of news relating to the Israel-Hamas War puts her in a unique position.
By continuing her advocacy for a ceasefire and diplomatic approach, Lee could earn the support of those across California with a similar stance, and unlike Schiff or Porter, that support would not be divided with a nearly identical campaign. With the primary election in March rushing closer, Lee’s campaign chances face an uncertain trajectory. It’s overwhelmingly her support of a ceasefire in Gaza that’s her campaign’s defining feature, and may become the driving force behind her voters by the 2024 Senate election this spring.