Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas on Thursday endorsed Rep. Adam B. Schiff in the California Senate race in 2024, increasing the support of the Burbank congressman from influential California Democrats as the March primary election approaches.
Rivas said he thinks Schiff is best positioned to take the lead in addressing the high cost of living, homelessness, and climate crisis, issues critical to voters in his Central Coast district. The speaker praised the other top Democrats in the race, Reps. Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland, but said he felt a special affinity for Schiff.
“He is an amazing listener and always engages with the issues that matter most to our region and the communities I represent,” Rivas (D-Hollister) said. “It’s not that Porter or Lee don’t exist, but I just have a connection with Adam.”
In a written statement, Schiff said he was humbled to have Rivas’ endorsement, adding that “Robert has shown outstanding leadership in the State Assembly on the most pressing issues facing Californians — from solving the fentanyl crisis to improving housing affordability to expanding worker protections. ”
“My top priority in this race is fighting for an economy that works for everyone, and there are few people who know what it takes as well as Robert,” Schiff said.
Rivas became speaker in June after a protracted and politically charged power struggle with former Assembly leader Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).
Rivas and Schiff met for the first time at an event last winter hosted by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, who backs Schiff, and the two hit it off.
“The money that we send as a state needs to go back to California, and Adam feels strongly about that as well,” Rivas told The Times.
Although he has only served five years in the Assembly and has no profile in the state, Rivas is the highest-ranking elected Latino in California to endorse Schiff in the race. Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla has not endorsed any candidate who wants to join him in the upper house.
Lee won the endorsement of state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and state Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who is Afro-Latino.
Recent polling of registered Latino voters shows their support is up for grabs. In a survey of 900 registered voters last month by the Latino Community Foundation and BSP Research, 40% of respondents said they were undecided about the Senate candidate. Schiff and Porter were the two with the most support, getting 12% and 10%, respectively.
Rivas is close to former US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who are both big supporters of Schiff. This week, the Schiff campaign released its first digital ad, featuring Pelosi.
“The fact that almost half of the California delegation endorsed Adam says something,” Rivas said.
Twenty-two of the state’s 40 Democratic House members have endorsed Schiff. Few endorsed Lee, or two endorsed Lee and Schiff.
This week, first-term Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach) supported Porter. He became the first member of the delegation to endorse him, saying in a statement: “He is known for speaking truth to power and asking the tough questions that others are afraid to ask.”
Before withdrawing Rivas’ support, Schiff lost the support this week of Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony, who announced that he was withdrawing his endorsement of the longtime Burbank resident until Schiff called for a cease-fire in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
It comes after protesters picketed Schiff’s district office last week to express anger over the ongoing Israeli bombardment that has killed more than 8,400 people in Gaza following a Hamas attack on Israel earlier last month. which left about 1,400 people reported dead.
Schiff, who is Jewish, said the United States should not hesitate to support Israel, comparing himself with Lee, who called for a ceasefire.
Porter charted a middle path, saying Israel should not repeat the mistakes the US made after 9/11 and blaming American policymakers for allowing Iran to flourish as a sponsor of Hamas.