Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas on Thursday endorsed Rep. Adam B. Schiff in California’s contested 2024 U.S. Senate race, adding to the Burbank congressman’s support from influential California Democrats as the March primary election approaches.
Rivas said he thought Schiff was best positioned to lead on addressing the high cost of living, homelessness and the climate crisis, issues that are 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’s an incredible listener and has always been so engaged on the issues that are most important to our region and to the communities I represent,” said Rivas (D-Hollister). “It’s not that Porter or Lee aren’t, 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 remarkable leadership in the State Assembly on the most pressing issues facing Californians — from addressing 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 that takes as well as Robert,” Schiff said.
Rivas assumed the speakership in June after a protracted and politicially divisive power struggle with the previous 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 come back to California, and Adam feels strongly in that regard as well,” Rivas told The Times.
Though he’s only served five years in the Assembly and lacks a statewide profile, Rivas is the the highest-ranking elected Latino in California to endorse Schiff in the race. Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla has not endorsed a preferred candidate to join him in the upper chamber.
Lee has won the endorsements 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 that their support is very much 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 on a Senate candidate. Schiff and Porter were the two with the most support, garnering 12% and 10% respectively.
Rivas is close to former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who are both big Schiff supporters. This week the Schiff campaign released its first digital ad, which features Pelosi.
“The fact that nearly over half of the California delegation has endorsed Adam says something,” Rivas said.
Twenty-two of the state’s 40 Democratic House members have endorsed Schiff. A few have either endorsed Lee or dually endorsed both Lee and Schiff.
This week, first-term Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach) announced his support of Porter. He became the first member of the delegation to endorse her, saying in a statement: “She’s known for speaking truth to power and asking the tough questions others are afraid to ask.”
Before picking up Rivas’ backing, Schiff lost the support this week of Burbank Mayor Konstantine Anthony — who announced he was pulling his endorsement of the longtime Burbank resident until Schiff called for a cease-fire in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
This came after protesters picketed Schiff’s district office last week to express anger over Israel’s ongoing bombings that have killed more than 8,400 people in Gaza in the aftermath of a Hamas attack on Israel early last month that left about 1,400 people reported dead.
Schiff, who is Jewish, said the United States should be unequivocal in its backing of Israel, contrasting himself with Lee, who has called for a cease-fire.
Porter has charted a middle path, saying that Israel must not repeat the mistakes that U.S. made after 9/11 and blaming American policymakers for allowing Iran to flourish as a sponsor of Hamas.