We are now less than two weeks away from the primary election in California, and the race to fill the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat is drawing interest locally and nationally — including from actors, musicians and celebrities throwing their weight into the contest. 

Actors Mark Hamill and Robert De Niro have penned fundraising emails for Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt has lent his voice to a recent political ad. Schiff has collected checks for his campaign from Barbra Streisand, Judd Apatow, Diane Lane and the late producer Norman Lear, according to FEC filings, just two days before Lear’s Dec. 5 death. 

What You Need To Know

  • With less than two weeks to go until the primary election, candidates for California's Senate race are pulling out the star power as they try to earn voters support

  • Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter have all earned a slew of celebrity endorsements or donations according to FEC filings

  • Professor Sara Sadhwani says the endorsements could move the needle if the general election leads to a Democrat vs. Democrat standoff

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, has received the support of actors Danny Glover and Sheryl Lee Ralph, musician John Legend and celebrated legal activist Gloria Steinem. Actor Ben Affleck has also donated $10,000 to her campaign, according to FEC filings.

Actors Elizabeth Banks and Adam Scott have thrown their support behind Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, who also cultivated financial support from actors Susan Sarandon, Jason Ritter, Rene Russo and Rhea Perlman, according to FEC filings.

All three Democrats also hit the picket line for the SAG-AFTRA strike this summer, walking with union members as they fought for fair working conditions and wages. 

On the other side of the street, leading Republican candidate Steve Garvey, a former baseball star, hasn’t announced any endorsements publicly. A search of FEC filings doesn’t show any Hollywood names among his 439 contributions reported at the end of 2023, though he has been endorsed by the San Diego Police Officers Association.

But it’s unclear how these donors and their support are driving voter support, if at all. Though Schiff currently leads the field with 28% voter support, according to a recent Emerson College poll, Garvey follows in second at 22%. That’s despite his lack of big-ticket endorsements — and Porter's (16%) and Lee’s (9%) glut of famous supporters.

“To the extent that Hollywood stars can come in and speak to a broader audience of voters, folks who may not otherwise be engaged in the race, it certainly could be helpful for candidates especially in terms of mobilizing people to the polls towards primary election day," said Sara Sadhwani, a professor of politics at Pomona College and a democracy fellow at Harvard University. "That being said, there's a limit to how far those endorsements can really go."

But Sadhwani cautioned that it’s candidates – not celebrities – who ultimately drive voters to the ballot box.

“Celebrities also played this incredible role at selling products and being influencers, so it's a really big question as to what extent they can inform their own base of support about who their candidate of choice is and actually get them out to the polls to cast a ballot in support of them.”

With the race ultimately for second place in this top-two primary system, Sadhwani said celebrity power may be more coveted in the general election.

“If we arrive at a situation for the general election in which we have, say, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, what the real big question here is, can we have a Democrat-on-Democrat race?" she said. "Then those celebrity endorsements might take on a greater role in really informing their base.”

Spectrum News' David Mendez contributed to this report.