How Katie Porter’s book tour became part of her quasi-national Senate campaign

Katie Porter talks about her memoir and her upcoming Senate run.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) talks about her upcoming Senate run and her memoir, “I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan,” with Melanie Mason at the 43rd annual L.A. Times Festival of Books.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

At the recent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Celine Marcos was giddy after chatting with Rep. Katie Porter and getting the Democratic Irvine congresswoman to sign a copy of her newly released memoir, “I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan.

The moment wasn’t just a book-lover fangirling. Marcos lives in the district of Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a rival of Porter’s in California’s 2024 Senate race, and has felt “torn between the candidates” in what promises to be a fierce campaign.

Though she had been following Porter’s career in Congress for some time, Marcos, 28, who works for the L.A. Community College District, was struck by how Porter’s appearance at the festival “was way more on a personal level” than about politics. The one-on-one experience helped shift Marcos’ preference in the Senate race — “in Porter’s favor, for sure.”


Porter is far from the first politician to try to elevate her profile and charm voters and potential donors by releasing a memoir while kicking off a campaign for higher office. But Porter’s strategy is another example of how a Senate campaign in California, a vast territory that’s home to nearly 40 million people, can require almost quasi-national campaign tactics.

Book tours are practically de rigueur for prospective presidential candidates, as former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have shown over the last year.

Porter’s work, which peaked at No. 6 on the New York Times Best Seller list, offered her a chance to speak before big crowds around the state and across the nation. Already a popular talk show guest, she booked a fresh round of appearances on ABC’s “The View,” NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” — along with a slew of podcasts, magazine interviews and radio broadcasts.

She also did in-person events in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Chicago, the San Diego area, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

“Going on ‘The View’ was one of the best appearances I could do,” Porter said at the book festival in late April as she scrambled across the USC campus to get from her appearance to the book signing. “ ‘The View’ is a program where people are coming on because they’re interested in hearing smart women engaging in a wide variety of issues, whether it’s shopping for new tableware, or it’s talking about abortion rights. I think, for those audiences, inserting politics into areas of conversation that are part of larger things is important.”

 Rep. Adam Schiff is photographed in the L.A. Times Festival of Books photo studio,
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is photographed in the L.A. Times Festival of Books studio at USC on April 23.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Political consultant Bill Carrick said the book circuit allowed Porter to tell her story on her own terms and offer to readers and voters a reason for why the candidate-cum-author should be elected. In 2021, Schiff, fresh off leading the House effort to impeach then-President Trump, released a book about his efforts to counter Republican demagoguery and democratic backsliding.

The Burbank congressman’s tome was a New York Times bestseller and helped him maintain a national profile by jumping onto the national talk show circuit as well. “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could” even won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the current interest category.

“These books do answer that question that everybody who is voting is wondering, which is ‘Well, what are you for? What are you going to do if you get to the Senate?’” Carrick said.


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An added benefit for Porter’s campaign is that it didn’t have to pay for any of the travel associated with the book promotion. Stacey Stein, a Crown Publishing Group spokeswoman, told The Times all travel arrangements were made by the publisher.

Rose Kapolczynski, former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s longtime political advisor, noted that in previous eras it was rare for a new member of Congress like Porter to be writing a book and doing national tours.

“One thing a book tour does for you, it gives you a news hook with no need for reporters to talk to your opponents,” Kapolczynski said. “There’s also a voter outreach side because you can’t get elected without being known. Just becoming a more familiar name to voters is a huge step up. If you can do it for free via a news appearance, it saves more money for your campaign later.”

The strategy has been used by past candidates for statewide office in California — with mixed results. Republican Meg Whitman, a former EBay chief executive, released “The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life” during her 2010 campaign for governor, which she ultimately lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. Vice President Kamala Harris published “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer” in 2009 while successfully running for California attorney general.

Porter’s appearance on Maher’s show included a clash with former CNN host Piers Morgan over the expulsion of three Tennessee lawmakers and whether transgender athletes had a place in women’s sports. On Meyers’ program, she had a welcoming audience who listened to her talk about Tucker Carlson’s recent firing from Fox News.

Porter used the appearance to discuss topics in her book — and defuse potential attacks against her during the campaign. On “The View,” she found a sympathetic forum to talk about her contentious divorce and allegations that she is a bad boss. She accused her critics of trying to weaponize painful moments in the lives of her three children for political gain.


“It only comes up in these contexts where people are trying to tear down a strong, outspoken woman,” Porter told “The View’s” hosts about her husband’s domestic violence allegations against her.

Like many political tomes, Porter’s is part memoir, part manifesto. She writes about her upbringing in rural Iowa during the farm crisis of the 1980s and the lessons learned from her 2018 underdog win in a traditionally Republican Orange County House district. She denounces the influence of big corporations in Washington and offers tips on how to become politically engaged.

But Porter’s book also strays from the norm, exploring normally taboo issues such as the strain her job has put on her finances, her family and her self-image. She calls out fellow Democrats — and names names — for out-of-touch behavior and writes about the small and large indignities of serving in Congress.

Katie Porter (right) talks about her upcoming Senate run and her memoir.
Rep. Katie Porter, right, talks about her upcoming Senate run and her memoir, “I Swear: Politics is Messier Than My Minivan,” with Melanie Mason at the 43rd annual L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC on April 23.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

For example, during her appearance at the Times book festival, she was asked about her bracingly honest writing about her weight. This comes up in the book’s second chapter, but Porter said it was the first chapter she wrote and recalls in it that after she won in 2018, commenters on social media said that her ascent was a victory for “fat positivity.”

“I say in the book, I remember crying and thinking, ‘First, I never really knew I was fat,’ ” she said to a laughing sellout crowd who had all paid $5 to reserve a seat. “Like most middle-aged woman, the struggle is real, and I sure as hell wasn’t feeling positive about it.”

Her session at the festival was a mix of lighthearted one-liners and serious comments about the state of American politics. She offered high-level analysis of the Senate race and an explanation of why she thinks California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein should get to serve out the rest of her term.


At one point, she sidestepped a question about whether the calls for Feinstein to resign were sexist, saying: “We need to think about how to modernize Congress so that when we have these kinds of situations, we have a set of rules and policies in place so that it doesn’t become sort of personalized or politicized, and we don’t allow any biases to creep into the discussion.”

Kiely Wilcox, 28, of Costa Mesa, a product manager for a tech company, said she was excited by the opportunity to see the congresswoman in a unique venue.

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“I think when you go see politicians at rallies, it’s very scripted. Kind of a ‘get in and get out’ situation,” Wilcox said. “It’s really nice to hear her honest, first-thought responses.”

The room was rapt when Porter spoke about Trump and the conservative U.S. Supreme Court. After the event, Palos Verdes retiree Ros Wolf stood at the very back of a nearly 200-person line eager to interact with a political hero.

The 76-year-old former lawyer wanted to show Porter photos she had from volunteering on the Irvine resident’s 2018 campaign, which launched her political career. And yet Wolf, who said she loves Porter, is undecided about whom she’ll vote for in the 2024 California Senate primary.

“I have supported Barbara Lee for 20 years,” she said, referring to the Oakland congresswoman and Senate candidate.


Wolf said hearing Porter helped her wrestle with the knotty decision about whom to back in the primary.

“Today is the first time I’ve heard her speak really in a long time, and I thought she was very powerful,” Wolf said.