Conversations and insights about the moment.

Conversations and insights about the moment.

Charles M. Blow

“I was a little disappointed that Katie Porter chose to run,” Karl Rubin, an emeritus professor of math, told me on the patio of a community center on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Monday morning.

He said that Porter, currently a Democratic congresswoman from a suburban swing district south of Los Angeles, would be great as a senator and he would be thrilled to have either her or Adam Schiff represent California in the Senate, but he believed her choice to run left her House seat vulnerable to being taken by a Republican.

Rubin was one of 13 people I spoke to who work at the university, where Porter is a tenured law professor. They are all Democrats, except for one who registered Republican to vote against Donald Trump; they live in the same faculty and staff housing that Porter has lived in; they know her better than most.

And so it was particularly striking to hear so many of them say they are unhappy about her decision to give up her House seat to run for the Senate, even though the consensus was that they respected and admired her. In fact, only four of those 13 neighbors said that they were voting for her.

Caroll Seron, an emeritus professor of criminology, pointed out that some people were “quite disappointed” that Porter announced her run for Senate so soon after being re-election to her congressional seat; another colleague said Porter’s ambition got in the way of her service to the district.

There was a clear sense in this group of resignation rather than enthusiasm about Schiff, the front-runner in Tuesday’s primary, even from those supporting him. As Mark Fisher, a neurology professor who is voting for Porter, put it, Schiff “is not emotionally engaged” and “he’s too intellectual, too cerebral.”

Kev Abazajian, a physics professor, had a more policy-driven opposition to Schiff, calling him “almost a conservative” because “he’s never seen a war he doesn’t like, he wasn’t part of the progressive caucus, he was part of the Blue Dog coalition.” He added: “His record, other than defending democracy, which I appreciate, has not been great in terms of progressive values.”

But in the end, most of these voters seemed to believe that Porter’s blind ambition was going to lose out to Schiff’s bland ambition.

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