4 frontrunners to become California's next senator debate in round 2

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SAN FRANCISCO - The four frontrunners vying to become California’s next U.S. senator on Monday debated crime, housing and border policies in San Francisco while navigating around the likely presidential nominees Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

The second debate between the candidates featured Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff and Republican former baseball star Steve Garvey.

Here are some takeaways:

TAMER DEBATE

Compared to the first debate, the top four candidates limited their attacks on each other, considerably. During the January 22 debate, Democrat members of Congress Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee took turns challenging and pushing political newcomer and Republican first-time candidate Steve Garvey. In particular, Garvey was pressed on whether he would support former President Trump after voting for him twice in 2016 and 2020. He was scrutinized for refusing to answer, and Porter said, "Once a Dodger, always a dodger."

Garvey was asked the question again by moderators, to which he responded, "I’ll make that decision when the time comes," said Garvey. "I hope this puts to an end the constant badgering and the use of the former president’s name as an attack on me, to try to paint me into a corner and that’s what career politicians do."

Overall, the candidates were much more focused on stating their positions on several hot-button issues including immigration, the Israel-Hamas war, housing, homelessness and crime.

TRUMP

Once again, the former President and leading GOP candidate for president’s name was invoked several times. Prompted by a question about certifying the election if Trump wins, Schiff said, "He shouldn’t be on the ballot. Because the constitution is quite clear, you take an oath to defend the constitution, and then you violate that oath with insurrection, you should be off the ballot."

The other Democrats agreed with Schiff, that Mr. Trump should be barred from the ballot.

After an exchange between Garvey and Schiff over Trump, Porter said, "This constant back and forth between Democrats and Republicans is what people are fed up with," said Porter. "The question you asked is one that deserves to be answered."

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS DOMINATE

As President Biden and former President Trump move closer towards a rematch in November, national headlines involving the office were front-and-center.

On the failed border deal in the Senate, the candidates were asked if the President should take executive action. "The president should make an executive order, comprehensive immigration reform is necessary," said Rep. Lee. "We will not have border security until we have comprehensive border reform."

The other Democrats agreed the president is using his legal authority as it relates to the border. Garvey placed the blame squarely on the president. "On day one, the president opened the flood gates, and created a crisis in the United States," said Garvey. "He should be the one to step up and close the border."

THE AGE-OLD QUESTION

In the aftermath of a special counsel report calling President Biden a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," the candidates were asked about age limits for candidates. After praising the 81-year-old’s record, Porter did not shoot down the idea. "I do think generally that age limits are a conversation for all elected officials that we ought to be having," said Porter.

Garvey struck a different tone. "This president, we’re saddened when we look at him, the state he’s in now," said Garvey. "Let’s not forget, this country’s worse off than it was three years ago."

Schiff defended Biden. "Some people are unfit for office at any age, and I put Donald Trump in that category," said Schiff.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

Ballots have been sent out and early voting has started. With three weeks until Super Tuesday and the California primary, the candidates are trying to set themselves apart and appeal to voters.

The latest poll shows Schiff leading the pack, Garvey and Porter in a dead heat for second, and Lee trailing behind. Still, according to the poll, about 29% of voters are still undecided. "As someone who’s been consistent standing up for what is right, a progressive champion for all these years," said Lee. "I think voters are going to be able to see the distinction between all of us."

They’re battling through the airwaves too. Schiff recently released an ad suggesting this is a two-person race between him and Garvey.

Porter continued to rail at the assertion. "I think voters, should choose the candidates, not the other way around," said Porter after the debate. "I think it’s disappointing that Representative Schiff is trying to deprive Californians of a robust election through November."

Rep. Schiff stood by his ad campaign.

"We’re emphasizing my accomplishments, my delivering for California, my effort to bring down housing prices to attack climate change and to protect our democracy," said Garvey. "And yes, we’re contrasting me with Mr. Garvey. After all, Mr. Garvey is one of the leading candidates, leading Republican in this race, out there taking pot shots at me. And, the most clear distinction in terms of the policies of everyone on the stage, is not between the three Democrats. It’s between the three Democrats and the one Republican, I’m not going to shy away from that contrast."