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Former baseball MVP Steve Garvey launches U.S. Senate campaign in California

The first-time candidate is running as a Republican in the heavily Democratic state

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Former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey waves to fans prior to a baseball game.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey waves to fans prior to a baseball game between the Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies on July 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. Garvey joined the race Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, to succeed the late California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, giving Republicans a splash of star quality on the ballot in a heavily Democratic state where the GOP hasn’t won a Senate race in 35 years.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

As Los Angeles faces elimination in the National League playoffs, a former Dodgers great hopes to hit a home run with California voters.

Steve Garvey, a 10-time All-Star and 1974 National League MVP, launched a campaign for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. Garvey, who also played for the San Diego Padres, is running as a Republican.

“Our campaign is focused on quality-of-life issues, public safety and education,” Garvey said in a statement. “As a U.S. senator, I will serve with common sense, compassion, and will work to build consensus to benefit all of the people of California.”

Garvey, 74, kicked off his campaign in a video filled with baseball images.

“I played in front of millions of fans. I never played for Democrats or Republicans or independents. I played for all of you. Now I’m running for the U.S. Senate in California. A state that I believe at one time was the heartbeat of America. And now it’s just a murmur,” he says in the video.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Garvey said he voted for Trump in the past but had not settled on a candidate in the 2024 presidential race. He did not answer directly when asked if he considered himself part of the Trump wing of the GOP.

“I’m running the Steve Garvey campaign,” he said. “We need to bring people together again.”

A former Park City, Utah, resident who started his professional baseball career in 1968 with the Ogden Dodgers rookie league team, Garvey was deeply in debt while living in a $5 million mansion overlooking the area’s ski resorts, according to a 2006 story in the Los Angeles Times.

Garvey acknowledged having chronic financial problems, blaming his debt on a combination of tax liabilities, financial support for most of his nine children and stepchildren, and costly legal battles over business and personal affairs, the Times reported.

Garvey’s campaign announcement highlighted his philanthropic endeavors, including work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes, The Blind Children’s Center, The Sisters of Carondelet, United Way, Ronald McDonald House, St. Vincent DePaul Center and Pediatrics AIDS.

“I’ve been fortunate to wear many hats in my life — from professional athlete to businessman to philanthropist. But the one thing that has remained consistent is my love for this great state and my desire to make a difference,” Garvey said in the statement. “In baseball, it’s not about the individual; it’s about the team. I believe the same holds true for politics. It’s time we come together, find common ground, and work towards a brighter future.”

Garvey’s entrance into a race gives Republicans a recognized name to many Californians, even though he may be unknown to millions of younger voters, per the AP. The first baseman played 19 seasons in the big leagues, retiring in 1987 with one World Series championship with the Dodgers. He played in a National League record 1,207 consecutive games.

As a first-time candidate, he will face the challenges of raising millions of dollars for TV advertising and building an organization to turn out voters in a field of candidates that already includes Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie PorterAdam Schiff and Barbara Lee. The race could be further complicated if Sen. Laphonza Butler, whom Gov. Gavin Newsom recently appointed to the seat following Feinstein’s death, chooses to run, according to the AP.

Garvey’s announcement comes a day after the Dodgers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday to go down 0-2 as the best-of-five NLDS shifts to Phoenix.