Kamala Harris wins US Senate primary – Los Angeles Times
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was declared the winner of the primary for the state’s open seat U.S. Senate race on Tuesday as a bevy of candidates competed for the second and final spot on the fall ballot.
The Associated Press called the race with nearly 9% of precincts reporting returns. Harris was leading her most prominent challenger, Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez, 40% to 16.5%.
Sanchez is a Democrat like Harris. Should the congresswoman place second once all the votes are counted, it would be the first time in a statewide election where a Republican failed to make the November ballot.
Tuesday’s election is the third held under the rules of the top-two primary, in which voters choose a candidate regardless of political party. Only the top two vote-getters move on the Nov. 8 general election. Compounding problems for Republicans is the dominance of Democrats in the state, with GOP candidates losing every statewide race for the last decade.
Duf Sundheim, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, appeared to be in third place, with a cluster of three Republicans – attorney Phil Wyman, former GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro and businessman Greg Conlon – following behind.
In all, 34 candidates were on the primary ballot in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. The four-term Democrat announced in January 2015 that she would not run for reelection, sparking an early frenzy of interest among prominent Democrats in seeking the seat. Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have been in office since 1992.
But it was Harris, 51, who pounced first by declaring her candidacy five days after Boxer’s announcement. Her decision may have frozen out others who were rumored to be considering the race. No other prominent Democrats stepped up until Sanchez, 56, launched her Senate bid four months later in May 2015.
Republicans fielded a small crop of experienced political players, but none with any experience in elected office.
At first blush, the Senate race had the markings of a highly visible and hotly contested campaign.
“People were excited about all of the possibilities,” said Kimberly Nalder, a political science professor at Cal State Sacramento. “But it never happened.”
Part of that may be attributed to the intoxicating nature of the presidential primary battle. Voters heard little or nothing about the Senate race as Sanchez tended to her duties in Congress and Harris to hers as attorney general.
Even so, Harris consistently maintained the appearance of the front-runner, raising $10.3 million for her campaign through the first five months of 2016. A career prosecutor who was once presumed to have an eye on a race for governor in 2018, she overwhelmingly won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party at its state convention in February.
Harris lives part time in Los Angeles with her husband, attorney Douglas Emhoff, but celebrated with supporters on Tuesday night in San Francisco, the launching pad for her career in politics. She served seven years as the city’s district attorney before being elected attorney general in 2010. Harris has since touted her role in the national settlement with banks on wrongful foreclosures during the economic crisis and efforts at fighting gang crime that has flowed across the border with Mexico.
That impressed some voters Tuesday, like Patty Tucker in the Yolo County town of Woodland.
“I think she’s accomplished a lot in a short time,” Tucker said, who is retired. “She’s tough and smart.”
Sanchez, a onetime financial advisor who unseated former Orange County Rep. Robert Dornan in a 1996 upset congressional race, touts her foreign policy experience serving in the House. She voted against the invasion of Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, both of which she attempted to remind voters during two televised Senate debates this spring.
Greg Gillett, a 38-year-old attorney in San Luis Obispo, said Tuesday that he voted for Sanchez because he trusted her judgment after her years on Capitol Hill and her “overt” support for veterans.
Sanchez also talked at length about her Southern California roots as the daughter of Mexican immigrants and her experience on federal immigration issues.
But even while being named one of the most influential women in Congress by CQ Roll Call in 2015, Sanchez has been criticized for what many have called a string of missteps in the public eye. Last year, she said in an interview that as many as 20% of Muslims support the establishment of a strict Islamic state.
Her Senate campaign has reported raising almost $2.3 million this year, although much of that cash was already on hand from her long congressional career.