A split screen photo, with Congressmember Barbara Lee standing with a microphone wearing a red blazer on the left and Congressmember Adam Schiff standing with a microphone wearing a grey suit jacket on the right.
Congressmembers Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff made campaign stops at The Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Two of the three leading Democratic candidates for one of California’s U.S. Senate seats made a campaign stop in San Jose.

Congressmembers Barbara Lee and Adam Schiff visited The Villages Golf and Country Club in South San Jose for an event hosted by its Democratic Club. Lee represents District 12, which includes parts of Alameda County, and Schiff represents District 30 in Southern California.

Lee and Schiff are running along with Democratic Congressmember Katie Porter and Republican candidates Eric Early and Steve Garvey to replace former Sen. Dianne Feinstein who died last year. The top two voter-getters in the March 5 primary election, regardless of party, will advance to the November election.

A group of senior citizens sit in a row on orange chairs in front of circular tables. A woman with short gray hair and a brown vest sits in the front.
Residents of The Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose listen to Congressmember and U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Lee speak on Jan. 25, 2024. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Barbara Lee

Lee addressed issues such as reproductive rights, lowering the national defense budget and her experience as a Black woman in politics. She is the first African American woman elected to the state Assembly and Senate north of Los Angeles and wants to bring a fresh perspective to the U.S. Senate.

“My whole work life as a public person has been about breaking glass ceilings, about making sure that everyone has a seat at the table,” she said.

As a woman who had an illegal abortion when she was a teenager, a frightening experience, Lee said, her experience helped inform her goal to codify abortion into national law.

Lee is a former resident of San Jose and a licensed social worker. After the Jan. 22 debate with the top four candidates, Politico reported Lee was in fourth place, trailing behind Porter and Garvey with Schiff leading recent polls.

Charlotte Dickson, 87, said she hadn’t decided who she would vote for and attended Lee’s talk to learn more about her. Dickson said she wants to see the next senator address issues like voter suppression, education and climate change.

“Climate issues are supremely important,” she told San José Spotlight. “If you can’t breathe and drink the water, there’s not much else.”

Lee fielded questions from residents on issues like the Israel-Hamas war, affordable health care and housing, Ukraine, former President Donald Trump and crime.

Lee was the first candidate to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza after the attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7, and reiterated her support for a permanent ceasefire as a solution to a peaceful two-state solution.

Lee wants housing to be viewed as part of infrastructure like bridges and roads on a national scale. She said there needs to be to an eviction policy and a federal fund to provide security deposits for low-income families. Lee, who has experienced homelessness, said there needs to be more housing to support the unhoused.

Santa Clara County has nearly 10,000 homeless people, based on last year’s count, which advocates claim is probably an undercount. In San Jose, more than 6,300 people were homeless last year.

“Being on the ground in San Jose gives me insight into the needs and priorities of San Jose’s diverse and innovative communities, and a better understanding of the support I can deliver from the Senate, from investing in initiatives to support the homelessness response to fighting for climate-friendly infrastructure,” Lee told San José Spotlight.

A large group of people sit in rows facing forward intently listening.
Residents of The Villages Golf and Country Club in San Jose listen to Congressmember and U.S. Senate candidate Adam Schiff speak on Jan. 28, 2024. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Adam Schiff

Schiff, whose brother lives in San Jose, visited The Villages Golf and Country Club four days after Lee last week.

He spoke about what he called the autocracy of former President Trump, the lack of resources such as clean water in the Central Valley and high cost of living in the state.

Schiff served as chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and helped lead the hearings about the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. He said he will do everything he can to stop Trump from getting reelected.

“We desperately need a Republican party to return to being a party of ideology again, stopping this cult of the former president,” he said.

Resident David Bruce, 79, said he attended Schiff’s talk because as a former political science professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, he’s interested in Schiff’s position. He said he wants the next senator to address illegal immigration.

“They need to have more resources to process folks,” he told San José Spotlight. “To me, it doesn’t make any sense to make them temporarily eligible for asylum.”

Schiff also answered questions and addressed issues such as the possibility of Trump’s reelection, the Israel-Hamas war, earmarks, term limits on the Supreme Court, an age limit for presidents and the threat of misinformation in the age of artificial intelligence.

Schiff differed from Lee on the war, calling for a humanitarian pause and citing Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. He said he’d like to see term limits on the Supreme Court — after judges terms out, they rotate to a different bench, like the Court of Appeals. He cited Congressman Ro Khanna’s bill which proposed 18-year term limits for Supreme Court judges. He was one of numerous sponsors including Lee and Porter.

He said he does not support a presidential age limit, but supports earmarks, as well as stopping AI from spreading misinformation.

“It’s important for me to let people know that I intend to be as vigorous a champion for people in San Jose as any other part of the state,” Schiff told San José Spotlight.

The next senatorial candidate debate is Feb. 12. at 7 p.m.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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