On June 7, California voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on many important statewide races in the nonpartisan, top-two primaries. Voter participation in these contests may get a boost due to increased and steady interest in the presidential election.
One of the biggest political contests in 2016 is the U.S. Senate race for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s open seat. Boxer is retiring after serving four terms — nearly a quarter of a century — in the upper chamber.
The race has a total of 34 candidates running, which will make for a crowded ballot. Under Proposition 14, which implemented the top-two primary, voters can select from all candidates running in a race, regardless of political affiliation. The top two vote-getters then move on to the general election.
Top-two is used for all statewide races, except for the presidential election — which has stricter rules for participation.
Candidates have tried to differentiate themselves by garnering the support and endorsement of key political players. Yet according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), two candidates have broken away as the top two candidates heading into June.
Democratic California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Democratic U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez stand a strong chance at being the first two candidates from the same party to face each other in a fall election for U.S. Senate in California. And both candidates have received major endorsements that could affect their candidacies in different ways.
Notably, Harris is backed by major state officials and party leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown (who also endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Tuesday) and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as the California Democratic Party. Sanchez has been endorsed by 24 editorial boards and news outlets — the most in the race.
“[Harris is] strong. She’s intelligent. She knows what she’s doing,” Governor Brown said in brief remarks about his endorsement of Harris. “If you can survive San Francisco politics, Washington, D.C., is a cakewalk,” Newsom said of his endorsement.
Harris’ supporters have praised her for her work to tackle cybercrime, defending sanctuary cities, supporting public health, education, and safety for all, including undocumented people.
As a member of Congress, representing California’s 46th district, many of the newspapers that have endorsed Sanchez have praised her for her fierce independence, strong sense of bipartisanship, and enduring pragmatism.
“The big difference between Sanchez and Harris is in legislative experience and understanding the back-and-forth required to get bills passed,” the Fresno Bee editorial board writes. “Sanchez holds senior positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee. A congresswoman doesn’t rise to these posts without the respect of colleagues.”
In an interview with U.S. Rep. Sanchez, she said she has had to cast some tough votes that did not always adhere to what the party leadership wanted or toe the partisan line:
“I voted against the Iraq War, which has proven to be the largest foreign policy blunder in recent history. I voted against the so-called PATRIOT Act because it infringes upon our civil liberties. I voted against the Wall Street bailout because it was a raw deal for hardworking Americans who lost their homes due to risky Wall Street speculation. I have been and am still opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership because I refuse to engage in trade deals with countries that are serial human rights abusers and won’t treat their workers the way we would in the United States.” – U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez
IVN reached out to Kamala Harris’ campaign for an interview, but is still waiting for a response.
PPIC reports that Harris has an 8-point advantage over Sanchez. However, Tom Del Beccaro, the leading Republican in the race, is 11 points behind Sanchez. In a same-party matchup between the two candidates in November, the endorsements will likely be a key factor in swaying voters outside the Democratic Party.
Photo Source: AP