California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Photo by John Schreiber.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Photo by John Schreiber.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is polling well ahead of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Orange, as the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer moves to a Tuesday showdown.

The battle is one of the most high-profile contests to pit Democrat against Democrat under the state’s election law calling for runoffs between the top two primary election vote-getters from any party. It is also the first time California voters have had a chance to pick a new senator since 1992, when Boxer and fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein were first voted into office.

The latest KABC/SurveyUSA Election Poll, based on data collected from Oct. 28-31, showed Harris holding a 20-point advantage over the Orange County congresswoman. That margin has nearly doubled since the end of September and is replicated by at least one other recent poll.

Forty-seven percent of those polled expressed support for Harris, 27 percent for Sanchez and 26 percent remain undecided.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County. Photo by Ken Stone
Harris has also far outpaced Sanchez in spending, paying out more than $12 million of the $13.5 million her campaign had raised as of the most recent federal filings. Sanchez spent about a quarter of that, $3.1 million, to sway voters.

The contest has been a colorful one, with Sanchez grabbing attention for “dabbing” at the end of the candidates’ only debate, held Oct. 5 at Cal State Los Angeles. The hip-hop move is more often seen on the dance floor or in the end zone of a football field and seemed to draw more criticism than cheers.

Harris picked up endorsements from Boxer and Feinstein the following morning.

The attorney general is also backed in her bid by more than a dozen other members of Congress as well as President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Sanchez has the support of at least 22 of her California colleagues in the House and a dozen members of the state Legislature.

Both have endorsements from labor, though Harris seems to have garnered the lion’s share there as well, with backing from the two largest teacher unions, the 700,000-member-strong Service Employees International Union California and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public employee trade union in the country.

Harris was sworn in as attorney general in 2011 and prior to that served two terms as district attorney of San Francisco.

Sanchez was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 and serves on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Both support comprehensive immigration reform, more restrictive federal gun laws and the federal health-care law widely referred to as Obamacare. They are both staunchly pro-choice and agree with efforts to fight global warming. And each opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal crafted by the Obama administration.

Harris has attacked Sanchez’s attendance record in Congress, while touting her own ability to “get things done.” The lifelong prosecutor points to her record fighting gangs and human trafficking and crafting reforms to residential foreclosure rules.

Sanchez has tagged Harris as responsible for rising rates of violent crime, a charge widely viewed as an attempt to appeal to Republican voters. Highlighting her 20 years of experience in Congress as critical to effectively tackling issues from global terrorism to immigration reform, Sanchez has accused Harris of being a politician who “says one thing and does another.”

The Senate has no term limits and Feinstein, California’s other senator, has announced no plans to retire, though she is the body’s oldest member at 83.

— City News Service

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