(Bloomberg) -- California’s Senate race is living up to its “jungle primary” nickname and turning out to be one of the most competitive in the nation, featuring crypto billionaire donors and a former star baseball player.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman who presided over the first impeachment of Donald Trump, is the frontrunner for the seat that had been occupied for 30 years by the late Dianne Feinstein. He faces fellow House Democrats Katie Porter and Barbara Lee in Tuesday’s primary.

But the race has been upended by the candidacy of Republican Steve Garvey, a political novice and baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres who voted for Donald Trump twice.

That’s because California uses a “top two” system, where all candidates run in a single primary, and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election. Schiff is spending an estimated $7.5 million in ads that attack Garvey, but also boost his name recognition to GOP voters.

Thanks in part to Schiff’s strategy, Garvey has a chance to make the November runoff, where he'd easily be defeated in a state that heavily favors Democrats. Porter trails Garvey by 8 percentage points in the latest poll by the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies released Friday.

“Adam Schiff would be delighted to run against Steve Garvey, because it means the open primary is the last competitive election he has to worry about,” said Jessica Levinson, director of Loyola Law School’s Public Service Institute. 

Meanwhile, Porter’s hard line on the consumer and environmental impacts of crypto has led industry leaders to spring to action through Fairshake, the super political action committee funded by billionaire twins and Bitcoin investors Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, venture capitalists such as Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz and companies such as Coinbase Global Inc. and Ripple Labs.

Fairshake’s biggest expenditure to influence an election so far is $10 million opposing Porter. It’s helped make the race the most expensive in the nation, with total ad spending around $65 million, according to tracking firm AdImpact. Pro-Schiff ads comprise the bulk of that at over $37 million.

Campaigns and super PACs combined have spent $88.3 million, Federal Election Commission data show. 

The race won’t affect the US Senate map, but it represents generational change for California. In 1992, it became the first state to elect two female senators, Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, in what became known as the “Year of the Woman.” Kamala Harris, endorsed by the state’s Democratic party, faced a weak challenger in her 2016 race for US Senate. And when she resigned to become Joe Biden’s vice president in 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla to complete her term, making him the Golden State’s first male senator in 25 years. 

After Feinstein died, Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to fill out the remainder of her term through 2024. Butler decided against vying for a full term. 

Should Schiff and Garvey advance to the November runoff, “there is a very real possibility that come next year, it could be represented by two men,” said Jessica Taylor, Senate and governors editor at the Cook Political Report.

Here’s what you need to know about the candidates:

Adam SchiffAge: 63Notable donors: billionaire Haim Saban, Medley Partners founder Mark Heising, Lone Pine Capital founder Steve Mandel, singer Barry Manilow and Roger Corman, legendary producer and director of cult films.Claim to fame: Led Trump’s first impeachment, amateur stand-up comedian.Pitch: “When our country was threatened by a would-be dictator in the Oval Office, one of us stepped up to the middle of that fight.”

Katie PorterAge: 50Notable donors: Democratic mega donor Karla Jurvetson, Live Nation Chief Executive Officer Michael Rapino, Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman, actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow.Claim to fame: Minivan-driving single mom grilling corporate executives with a whiteboard, consumer advocate.Pitch: “Without a woman in this Senate seat, that’s a big loss for California because we’re not making progress on things like childcare, and the cost of housing and lifting up lower wage workers and so more of the same from more of the same people is going to consistently leave women and children behind.”

Barbara LeeAge: 77Notable donors: actor Ben Affleck, venture capitalist Mitch Kapor and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.Claim to fame: Only member of Congress to vote against authorizing military force after the 9/11 attacks, highest-ranking Black woman appointed to Democratic leadership.Pitch: “The perspective, the lens, the representation, the experience of a Black woman from California is badly needed, because not only do Black women fight for our communities, for marginalized and vulnerable people for children, for criminal justice reform, we fight for everybody, to lift everybody up.”

Steve GarveyAge: 75Notable donor: Larry Flax, co-founder of California Pizza Kitchen Inc.Claim to fame: Won Most Valuable Player twice, inspired bumper stickers saying “Steve Garvey is not my Padre” after revelations he got two women pregnant before marrying a thirdPitch: “I never played for Democrats, Republicans or independents, I played for all of you. And now I'm running for all the people.”

 

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