Democratic Rep. Katie Porter on Monday endorsed exploring age caps for all elected officials, even as she praised the record of her party’s octogenarian leader, President Joe Biden.
“When I’m evaluating President Biden, what I’m looking for is the results — what he’s delivered to help my family. And I’m pleased with what he’s done so far,” Porter said in a 60-minute California Senate debate in San Francisco. “I do think generally that age limits are a conversation for all elected officials that we ought to be having.”
The candidates were asked about “age limits” — and whether Biden, 81, and former President Donald Trump, 77, are too old to serve a second term in the White House. That long-simmering question burst into a full boil last week with the release of a special counsel report that presented a harsh portrait of Biden’s mental faculties.
None of the three Democrats raised direct alarm about Biden’s age during the second televised clash of the California race. Republican Steve Garvey, the former major league baseball player, cast the president in a pitiful light – breaking with those in his party who sense political opportunity in mocking the president’s mental acuity.
“We’re saddened when we look at him in the state he’s in now,” Garvey said.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, 63, defended Biden and used the question to pronounce Trump as unfit for office, at any age.
Porter, 50, is running on a generational change message and positioning herself as a disruptor of the status quo in Washington. Left unsaid were explicit references to her opponents: She’s in a battle for second place against Garvey, 75, and fellow Democrat, Rep. Barbara Lee, 77. Porter did not engage with either of those opponents.
Instead, she leapt at the chance to knock Schiff, the race’s frontrunner, as a hypocrite, accusing him of supporting “age limits” for Supreme Court justices, but not imposing the same standard on members of Congress. (Porter later clarified to reporters that she was referring to Schiff’s position on term limits for Congress and the high court.)
Throughout the evening, Porter made repeated attempts to draw a contrast between her and Schiff, returning to a critique about him accepting donations from corporate PACs.
Schiff didn’t take the bait.
The congressmember from Burbank has put millions of dollars behind TV ads portraying the contest as a one-on-one matchup with Garvey.
He continued that on Monday night. While Porter and Lee looked, Schiff tangled with the Republican over his refusal to say whether he welcomes Trump’s support.
“Let me just say this also to Mr. Garvey, the gravest threat that we have to our democracy is Donald Trump,” Schiff said.
Garvey, who voted for Trump in 2020 and 2016, declined to say whether he would back him again in 2024. Given time to respond to Schiff, Garvey savored the moment.
“No, sir,” he said, addressing Schiff. “The greatest single threat to democracy is deconstruction of the Constitution: Packing the [Supreme] Court; doing away with the filibuster. These are things that deconstruct democracy.”
Schiff jumped back in to respond to Garvey.
“Donald Trump packed the Supreme Court, which is why millions of Americans lost their right of reproductive freedom, why the Supreme Court is striking down air quality and water quality regulations,” Schiff said.
Garvey ended the exchange, saying Schiff, whose political career took off during the first impeachment of Trump, is “fixated on one person and one person only.”
While Schiff eagerly took on Garvey as a foil, there was no pile-on from his fellow Democrats, unlike the last time all four candidates met on stage at the late-January debate held by POLITICO and Fox 11 in Los Angeles.
Lee, who is polling in fourth place, relished picking apart Garvey’s rambling answers in that prior meeting. On Monday, she stuck to her own biographical background, pointing to her past experience living on public assistance and being homeless.
While Schiff tried to keep his focus on Garvey, Porter’s jabs at him did not go completely unanswered. He made an oblique reference to Porter’s campaign slogan to “shake up the Senate,” stating it was impossible to “walk down the halls of Congress without tripping over five people” making similar pledges.
“They don’t end up getting anything actually accomplished,” he said.
Dustin Gardiner contributed to this report.