Steve Garvey’s wholesome GOP Senate campaign image belies a complex past 

A man sits on a bench while posing for a photograph
Former Los Angeles Dodgers MVP Steve Garvey is running for the open U.S. Senate seat in California as a Republican.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Thursday, Feb. 1. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Steve Garvey’s wholesome GOP Senate campaign image belies a complex past

With the first California U.S. Senate debate in the rearview mirror and California’s March 5 primary coming up, Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank leads the field. But the race for second place — between Democratic Rep. Katie Porter and GOP front-runner Steve Garvey — is neck and neck, a recent poll shows.

Garvey’s entry into the race — in which he is hoping to secure a runoff position on the November general election ballot—has prompted the question: The baseball player?


Nicknamed “Mr. Clean” during his days as a star with the Dodgers and Padres, Garvey is pushing a campaign focused on “restoring moral integrity in Congress.” Yet three of his adult children told L.A. Times investigative reporters Nathan Fenno and Adam Elmahrek another story about their father.

Here are four quick hitters about Garvey from their investigation.

Who was “Mr. Clean” ?

Garvey was the picturesque representation of the All-American look —as American as “Beaver” Cleaver, apple pie and, well … baseball.

Before entering the political arena, Garvey was an All-Star first baseman for the Dodgers and Padres in the 1970s and 1980s. He reached the World Series five times, contributing to the Dodgers’ championship in 1981.

Southern Californians revered Garvey for his prowess on the diamond, where he earned numerous accolades, including a league MVP award. Fans admired his clean-cut demeanor, charming smile and devotion to fans, charities and God.

“He collects art, not phone numbers,” legendary Times columnist Jim Murray wrote of Garvey in 1974. “He visits crippled children’s hospitals, not discotheques. … Garvey is hopelessly addicted to malted milk and getting to bed early.”


How has he curated his public image?

For decades, Garvey was portrayed as the aw-shucks role model and family man, drawing the ire of other players who felt his “persona was too neat, his near-immaculate lifestyle too perfect … nothing more than image making,” Sports Illustrated’s William Nack wrote in 1982.

Garvey insisted his image was genuine in his 1986 autobiography: “All that autograph-signing and handshaking and cheek-kissing, that’s how I am and have always been.” He stressed the need for positive role models and that there should be “at least one straight arrow among the swingers.”

A biography once posted on his website described him as “a devoted family man,” reading, “As a father of seven children, Garvey understands that in the ever-changing world we live in, there is a great necessity of being a man of honor, integrity and quality.”

What are three of his adult children saying about him?

His oldest daughter from his first marriage, Krisha Garvey, 49, said she felt it was important to tell voters that her father’s public image hasn’t always reflected his personal life. She said her father cut off almost all contact without explanation about 15 years ago, an action she finds painful.


“There is something lacking in him, something not authentic,” Krisha Garvey told The Times about what she described as “complete abandonment” by her father.

Beginning in the late 1980s Garvey became entangled in legal battles over paternity and child support, all while embroiled in a bitter divorce and visitation disputes with his first wife and Krisha’s mother, Cynthia Garvey.

Two of Garvey’s children, Slade Mendenhall and Ashleigh Young, were involved in his 1989 paternity embroglio and said they have never known their father. At the time, two different women — including his fiancée — accused Garvey of fathering their children before he ultimately married a third woman, his current wife, Candace Garvey.

Mendenhall and Young, both 34, told The Times that Garvey declined multiple attempts for meetings or even phone calls. They said they only had a relationship with him through the family court system.

They both said they have no partisan or ideological positions on the race — and have moved forward in their lives without their father.

Garvey’s actions had made him the butt of many jokes, with bumper stickers proclaiming: “Steve Garvey is not my Padre.” The Times described the situation as an “accidental double play.”


In a 1989 article, he told The Times that he promised to “accept the moral and financial responsibility” for the children because “there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with moral situations, and I believe this is the right thing to do.”

Garvey had discussed political aspirations since the early 1980s, and the article assured readers that his political prospects remained intact.

What is Garvey’s response?

Garvey’s campaign did not respond to The Times’ detailed questions about his children, financial dealings, or whether his public image mirrored his private life.

Instead, his representatives released a statement in which Garvey acknowledged his challenges after retiring from baseball were pivotal in shaping who he is today.

Garvey did not elaborate on what those challenges were.

“The lessons learned about personal accountability and integrity have made a profound, lasting impact on my life,” he added.


Garvey said his experiences have equipped him with a better understanding of adversity and will allow him “to serve the public with empathy and integrity, something that has been lacking in Washington, D.C.”

Read the full story: Steve Garvey touts ‘family values’ in his Senate bid. Some of his kids tell another story

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