California Democrats spend significant campaign cash fighting each other thanks to top-two primary rule

Kamala Harris Loretta SanchezNew figures on the November 2016 election cycle showed that Golden State Democrats continued to shell out substantial sums to compete with one another for elective office. Numbers taken from the California Secretary of State, and verified with Cal-Access campaign records, illustrate how the state’s blanket primary system, which pits the top two first-round vote-getters against one another in general elections regardless of party, has changed election dynamics.

“In the 2016 election cycle, Democrats raised or spent $91.5 million on same-party races – a 69 percent increase from 2014 when Democrats spent $54.3 million,” according to Forward Observer, which gathered and analyzed the data. “The average budget for a same-party race between Democrats was $3.97 million in the 2016 cycle, up 32 percent since 2014.”

For the state GOP, by contrast, blanket primaries have had an increasingly milder effect. “Republicans raised or spent $2.78 million on same party races in 2016, a decline of approximately 80 percent since 2014 when Republicans spent $13.85 million,” Forward Observer added. “Notably, there were no same-party races between two Republicans in either the state Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016.”

Contributing to the discrepancy, Republicans in California have simply run against one another with less frequency than Democrats. Since the 2012 elections, when the blanket primary system began, only 20 of 79 total intraparty races – including those for seats in the Assembly, the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives – pitted one Republican candidate against another. The 59 Democrat-on-Democrat races notched over the relatively brief time period have added up: “In total, Democrats have spent a total of $195 million on same-party races since Prop. 14 first went into effect in 2012 compared to $31.3 million spent by Republicans,” Forward Observer concluded. “In other words, Democrats have spent $6.24 on same-party races for every dollar spent or raised by Republicans.”

A wedge effect

The news underscored indications earlier this year that California Democrats could be polarizing on some issues as a result of the party’s statewide dominance and tough competition for limited leadership positions. “Another effect of the [blanket primary] system, harder to quantify but possibly more serious, has been a sharpening differences between the more moderate and more progressive wings of the party, sparking sometimes thorny disagreements that could have been softened had all candidates vying for office run against Republican opponents,” as CalWatchdog previously reported. “In some cases, such as Kamala Harris’ race against Loretta Sanchez, the challenger was too weak to force a bruising battle over political agendas. In others, however, a more moderate non-incumbent drew a clear line on policy and was rewarded at the ballot box.”

“Last year, for instance, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown who pitted himself against the BART strike and won support from Chuck Reed, the ex-San Jose Mayor spearheading public pension reform – bested Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, the far more liberal Democrat who initially had been widely expected to win the race to replace outgoing state Senator Mark DeSaulnier.”

National impact

Nationally, divided Democrats have sometimes replicated the pattern. “Former Vice President Joe Biden, beloved by the Democratic base, had the audacity to endorse Barack Obama’s labor secretary, Tom Perez, to become Democratic National Committee chairman,” as Dan Morain wrote at the Sacramento Bee. “Sen. Bernie Sanders, who supports the more liberal Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, denounced Biden’s move as representing the ‘failed status-quo approach.’” But while Sanders made a big cameo during November’s elections, getting involved in the state initiative process, it’s unlikely he or other national party figures will try to tip the scales one way or the other in a close race scenario between two state-level California Democrats vying for the same office.

Still, the next big test of Democrats’ fundraising fortunes in a head-to-head matchup has been teed up for spring, when the special election will be held to replace new state Attorney General and outgoing Rep. Xavier Becerra in Congress. “At this point, 17 Democrats, two Republicans and one Green-party candidate will appear on the April 4 special-primary ballot,” Jim Geraghty observed at National Review. Assuming no contender wins a majority of votes on that day, the runoff election has been slated for June 6.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Continues Its March to the Left

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funds for tracking prescription drugsOn Tuesday, California voters lurched even further to the political Left, bringing the state even more out of step with the rest of the country. In a battle of two Democrats for a U.S. Senate seat, Bay Area leftist Attorney General Kamala Harris trounced Orange County moderate Rep. Loretta Sanchez, two to one – a greater margin than the victory in the state of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The Senate election again showed the bankruptcy of the “Top Two” primary reform of 2010, Proposition 14, which was supposed to produce moderate victors. As in many other local races, this race mainly prevented voters from having alternatives on the ballot from the Republican Party and third parties.

On the 17 state initiatives, giddy voters overall imposed massively higher taxes, spending and regulations. Combined with the $15 per hour minimum wage passed earlier this year by the Legislature, California in the future is going to be a much more expensive and less pleasant place to live. The next recession, which could hit next year, again will zoom unemployment above the 10 percent level and rapidly empty the state treasury, despite – or, rather, because of – the tax increases.

The Proposition 55 tax “extension,” really a $7 billion tax increase, belies the promise in 2012 that Proposition 30’s tax increase was “temporary.” The real problem here is that Prop. 30 was supposed to cover state deficits during the economic recovery from the Great Recession. But there’s no recession in 2016 and no deficits. So taxes should have been allowed to subside to the previous level. What will be done in the next recession? Another $7 billion tax increase – “temporary,” of course? Then another? And another?

Indeed, Prop. 55 passed with more than 60 percent of the vote, which for state teachers’ unions and other tax obsessives is like putting catnip in front of a mountain lion.

The Proposition 56 tax increase of $2 a pack of cigarettes, as I warned in a previous article on this site, will gouge poor people almost exclusively. How many non-poor people do you know that smoke a pack a day? And it will ignite a massively bigger black market in smokes. All to fund special interests favored by hedge fund billionaire and perpetual Silicon Valley busybody Tom Steyer.

Proposition 58 also passed, bringing back the retched, illiterate-producing Bilingual Education. As I wrote here, it’s one of the biggest education scams ever. Asian parents make sure their kids don’t get near this educational malpractice. But Hispanic kids won’t learn English or Spanish well, keeping them behind other kids.

As to regulations, Proposition 63’s absurd new gun-control measures passed, bringing certain lawsuits by gun groups for violations of the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.” Given that President Trump will be appointing pro-Second Amendment justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, the odds are that 63, and equally absurd gun controls passed by the Legislature earlier this year, will be overturned.

Like state officials in general, voters haven’t heard the proof that gun control only works on honest citizens; that criminals easily can get guns and ammo. Conversely, when honest citizens are armed, crime drops because criminals fear being shot by potential victims.

On the positive side, the drug companies successfully spent heavily to defeat Proposition 61’s price controls on prescription drugs. Even Bernie Sanders ads didn’t help any more than did his national backing of Hillary.

Although the death penalty again was upheld with the defeat of Proposition 62, as I pointed out here, no future governor will allow an execution, so the matter is mute – except to get cooperation from criminals too dumb to know they can’t be executed.

Proposition 57, criminal sentence reduction, passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote. That seems reasonable, but if crime keeps increasing, you can bet a tightening measure will be on the 2018 ballot. These things go in cycles. The 1990s saw Three Strikes imposed with Proposition 184 in 1994, which was too strict. Like the 1960s, now is a time of laxity. The pendulum probably will swing back the other way eventually.

Overall, the election will drive tens of thousands of productive people and thousands of businesses from the state to seek a better life in other states, or even countries, despite almost guaranteed worse weather.

Those who stay can light up with the passage of Proposition 64, legalizing recreational use of marijuana, evaporating their troubles in a purple haze of hallucinogenic bliss.

John Seiler is a longtime California columnist. His email: [email protected]

California Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez generates buzz at debate

As reported by Fox News:

Rep. Loretta Sanchez has tried for months to generate buzz in her uphill U.S. Senate campaign against Attorney General Kamala Harris.

She finally did, but not for anything she said.

The Orange County congresswoman capped an hour-long debate with her fellow Democrat Wednesday by mimicking a celebratory gesture popularized by NFL star Cam Newton, known as “the dab.”

Standing behind a lectern, Sanchez suddenly thrust out her left arm, while tucking her head into the crook of right arm, then holding the pose briefly.

Harris initially looked puzzled, then a smile creased her face. …

Click here to read the full story

Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez agree to one Senate debate

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, the Democrats running to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, have agreed to hold one general election debate.

The Sanchez campaign and debate sponsors confirmed Wednesday that the Oct. 5 debate from Los Angeles would proceed after weeks of wrangling over the fall schedule. Harris, the frontrunner, came out first in agreeing to the Los Angeles debate, as well as a planned Sept. 20 TV debate in Sacramento.

Sanchez, said two head-to-head debates would not suffice, and refused to participate in the Sacramento event. On Tuesday, she challenged Harris to a series of four debates, all in Los Angeles. Harris’ camp has maintained that if Sanchez wanted more than one meeting she should have agreed to appear in Sacramento for the debate proposed by The Sacramento Bee, KUVS Univision 19, KVIE, Capital Public Radio and California State University, Sacramento. …

Loretta Sanchez targets Republican voters

Loretta SanchezOn the heels of a Los Angeles Times story saying she was making a play for voters on the right, Democratic Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez is pushing Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill increasing minimum penalties in sexual assault cases.

While the bill received nearly unanimous support in the Legislature — the measure was in response to the Brock Turner case, where the former Stanford University swimmer received a few months in county jail and probation after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman — law and order is a basic tenet of Republican ideology.

“All victims of sexual assault deserve equal treatment regardless of socio-economics, education or immigration status,” the Orange County Congresswoman wrote to Gov. Brown. “However, the reality is that the law can and has failed victims by giving well-connected and affluent predators like Brock Turner an advantage with an alumni judge who will neglect the crime and ultimately disregard the victim.”

In the letter, Sanchez also highlighted her work on the House Armed Services Committee, where she pushed for policies that cracked down on how the military deals with sexual assaults.

“As the highest-ranking woman on the Armed Services Committee and the founder and chair of the Congressional Women in the Military Caucus, I understand from testimonies that sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime and by anyone,” Sanchez wrote.

The Times called it

Earlier Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Times published a story headlined: “Hurting for support in her own party, Rep. Loretta Sanchez tilts her Senate campaign to the right.” Only a few hours later the letter to Brown was released to the news media.

Sanchez has made it no secret that she is hoping to ride a coalition of Latinos, some Democrats, independents and Republicans to victory over the Democratic establishment candidate, Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is the frontrunner. There is no Republican in the race as the two women seek to replace Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who is retiring.

Sanchez has drawn several high-profile Republican endorsements. And the Times article focused on recent boasting of her record against “Islamic extremists” on a conservative radio show, a recent trip to Shasta Lake (in the deeply red, proposed State of Jefferson) to discuss water issues and a joint appearance at Camp Pendleton with conservative firebrand Darrell Issa, the Vista congressman.

Mark Petracca, chair of the Department of Political Science at UC Irvine, said the play to the right seems “desperate” and is “highly unlikely” to work for fears of Republican undervoting.

“It’s intended to attract GOP voters who do not have a dog in the fight,” Petracca said. “(GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump) is losing the state right now at least handily and there’s no excitement at the top of the ticket to mobilize GOP voters on Election Day. Is Loretta going to get them out to vote for her? Highly unlikely.”

Will it work?

In fact, of all the groups she’s hoping to win, she’s only performing strongly among Latinos, although there’s plenty of time to change that as the campaign ramps up. Harris led among the rest, according to a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

However, Sanchez has a history of upsets. Sanchez was first elected to Congress two decades ago after defeating Republican Congressman Bob Dornan, who was heavily favored. But Sanchez walks a fine line now, trying to win Republicans while not alienating Latinos and Democrats in an extremely partisan era when the space between the two sides widens each day.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Golden State Democrats Divide Over Race

The California Republican Party—an institution accustomed to embarrassment—suffered a novel and stinging indignity in the June 7 Golden State primary. Once the votes were tallied, it was revealed that the GOP’s candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer in the November election would be . . . nobody. It’s not that Republicans failed to recruit any contenders. Two former (and relatively obscure) state party chairmen, Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, competed in the primary, as did activist businessman and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz. Rocky Chavez, a state assemblyman from San Diego County who led the GOP field in early polling, had also been in the mix before abruptly withdrawing—at the beginning of a debate, no less—in February. So how does a party enter a race with four candidates and still emerge without a nominee?

Like most riddles associated with California politics, the answer is direct democracy. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 14, a ballot measure that abolished conventional party primaries for statewide and congressional races. Instead, the initiative created a system wherein primary voters get to cast their ballot for any candidate, regardless of party—but where only the top two finishers compete in the general election. This year, that process yielded a U.S. Senate contest between two Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

Among California’s political and media elite, the result is being discussed mainly as a sign of the GOP’s irrelevance in the nation’s most populous state—a reading with plenty of evidence to support it. Higher office has now been out of the party’s grasp for a decade, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection as governor marking the last time that a Republican won any statewide contest.

Democrat DonkeyYet, while public attention is focused on the GOP’s deathbed vigil, another equally consequential trend is unfolding largely under the radar: California Democrats, far from enjoying a frictionless ascendancy, are finding themselves sharply divided along racial lines. The breakneck demographic shifts in the state over the past few decades partly explain the tension. In 1990, California was more than 57 percent white, while Latinos made up just over a quarter of the state’s population. By 2014, however, Latinos had surpassed whites as the state’s largest ethnic group. At the same time, the state’s Asian population (the nation’s largest) had grown to 14.4 percent, more than double the number of California’s African-Americans. In a minority-majority state dominated by a party that practices identity politics, each group now finds itself in a zero-sum competition for a handful of positions at the commanding heights of Golden State politics.

Those spots don’t come open very often, making competition that much fiercer. Boxer and her Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein were both first elected to the upper chamber in 1992, a time when California was, in demographic terms, an entirely different place. They’re not the only members of California’s governing class who seem like relics of a bygone era. While the state’s population is ethnically diverse and young (in 2014 the median age was 36, sixth-lowest in the nation), its most visible political figures—Boxer, Feinstein, Governor Jerry Brown, and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi—are lily white and have an average age of nearly 78.

When Boxer announced her retirement in early 2015, it unleashed a frenzy of activity among California Democrats aiming to make their leadership more reflective of the party’s diversity. The problem was that no one could agree on exactly how to fulfill that mandate. Certainly Harris, born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, represented a break from the past. But the swiftness with which she attracted endorsements led to a backlash from Latinos, who felt they were being taken for granted. When the attorney general garnered near-instant backing from influential national Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, California State Senate president pro tem Kevin de Leon told Politico,“National figures should slow their roll a bit.” Arturo Vargas, head of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, cautioned, “Hispanic leaders are concerned about some kind of coronation, as opposed to a real electoral campaign.”

The coronation, however, largely proceeded apace. Harris’s substantial war chest and stack of endorsements deterred some of the state’s most prominent Latinos—namely former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and House Democratic Caucus chairman Xavier Becerra—from mounting a challenge. Sanchez, previously more of a comic figure than a serious political force (her main contribution to California politics has been a series of increasingly bizarre Christmas cards featuring her cat), exploited the vacuum for a Latino alternative, riding the discontent all the way to a spot on the November ballot.

Most observers—though not all—expect Harris to prevail in November, but the underlying tensions show little sign of abating. In May, Texas Democratic congressman Filemon Vela blasted the California Democratic Party for endorsing Harris, calling the act “insulting to Latinos all throughout this country” and “a disrespectful example of wayward institutional leadership which on the one hand ‘wants our vote’ but on the other hand wants to ‘spit us out.’” California Hispanics may share that sentiment. Though Harris won 40.3 percent of the vote to Sanchez’s 18.5 percent in the primary, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll released shortly before the contest showed 43 percent of Hispanics supporting Sanchez to just 16 percent for Harris.

Status anxiety is now pervasive among the racial caucuses within California’s Democratic Party. Hispanics worry that their votes will be taken for granted, while their elected officials are passed over for higher office. African-Americans, outnumbered two-to-one by Asians and six-to-one by Hispanics, fret that they’ll be relegated to junior-partner status within the party. Asians, meanwhile, chafe at certain liberal orthodoxies—a tension that became public in 2014 when a small band of Asian Democrats in the legislature blocked their black and Hispanic colleagues’ efforts to revive racial preferences in California college admissions.

Intra-party friction, of course, isn’t exclusive to California. However, with the Republican Party in steep decline in the state and the top-two primary system as the law of the land, the situation in California is particularly combustible. California Democrats have long dreamed of the unfettered power that would accompany vanquishing the state’s rump Republican Party. Few, however, seemed to anticipate the stress fractures that inevitably emerge in a political monoculture. With no worlds left to conquer, they’re now left warily circling each other. And no one seems inclined to slow his roll.

CA Republicans Shut Out of U.S. Senate Race

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funds for tracking prescription drugsCalifornia Republicans emerged from a bruising primary election day without a candidate in the runoff race to replace outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer — triggering an unprecedented new political calculus in which GOP voters will be courted by the underdog Democrat. “Democratic Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez survived Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary election, but finished so far behind front-runner Kamala Harris that her chances of a surprise victory in November may depend on a disparate patchwork of California voters, including a bevy of Republicans,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

“Out of a field of 34 Senate candidates, Harris won 40.4 percent of the vote Tuesday compared with Sanchez’s 18.6 percent. The Democratic state attorney general bested Sanchez in all but five of California’s 58 counties and almost beat the congresswoman in her home county, according to preliminary election returns.”

Although a range of factors compounded to create the disappointing result, California’s newfangled “jungle primary” system bore primary responsibility. The arrangement, pitched via Proposition 14 “as a way to force politicians to campaign toward voters in the middle rather than at the extremes,” appeared instead to pull the electorate to the left, not the middle, as the San Jose Mercury News reported:

“GOP candidates failed to advance in many of the Bay Area’s premiere contests as well as the race for the Golden State’s first open U.S. Senate seat in more than two decades. Two Democrats will compete in that contest as well as the races to represent the 14th Assembly District, which covers northern Contra Costa and southern Solano counties, the 24th Assembly District, which straddles San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and the 27th Assembly District, which covers most of south San Jose and the Evergreen area, among others.”

In at least some instances, however, these bad-news outcomes for the state GOP will come with a perverse silver lining. “With Democrats Sanchez and Harris squaring off for the Senate seat, Republicans will have no one other than Trump at the top of their ticket. And his presence will ripple to every congressional, state Senate and Assembly race,” the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Morain surmised. “You could have historic low turnout for Republicans,” one Democratic consultant told Morain, having blown his prediction that at least one Republican would make it onto the ballot for Senate in November. During an election cycle when long-festering disagreements among Democrats could have presented some problems in the voting booth, Trump’s potential to disorganize and demoralize California Republicans has restored confidence among party leaders. But Republicans desperate to avoid being tarred with Trump’s brush will be spared in districts where they’re not fielding a candidate thanks to the jungle primary.

California Republicans could also find themselves with a paradoxical opportunity to find common ground with Latino voters. Both blocs, analysts have agreed, are especially inclined to throw their support toward Sanchez and away from Harris. Latinos have more than ethnic affinity at play in their preference for Sanchez: California’s longstanding geographic divide has left Southern Californians, including many Latinos, without as much influence in and around Sacramento as Bay Area Democrats.

But in addition to the opportunity to pull the lever for Sanchez, Latinos have also been projected to turn out in droves for another reason. “Latino voter registration in California has nearly doubled this year, according to the secretary of state’s office,” the New York Times observed. “Many believe those newly registered voters will turn out on Tuesday, driven in large part by anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump. In a poll released in late May, Ms. Sanchez had the support of roughly 48 percent of Latinos, compared with 19 percent for Ms. Harris.”

Although Trump won California’s Republican primary, party leaders generally fear his impact on their political fortunes. In joining forces with Latinos for Sanchez, the state GOP would gain a chance to rebuild bridges Trump could otherwise destroy.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Election Day: Questions, What to Look For and a Few Predictions

Voting boothElection primary day is finally here in California. Watching much of the rest of the country’s voters engage in the process of choosing presidential nominees is little more than a spectator sport for Californians. While the choices of whom to vote for have been limited by those other states’ voters, Californians now will get a chance to speak through the ballot. Other important races will be decided, as well, and analysts will be looking for trends that could indicate how November campaigns turn out.

A few items to think about and a look into a cloudy and cracked crystal ball:

The Presidential Campaigns

Questions/What to Look For: Is the reported surge in Democratic registration a sign that the Bernie Sanders campaign is bringing in new voters? Will they show up on Election Day? On the Republican side, does Trump’s presumptive nominee status keep some Republicans away from the polls affecting down ticket races? Is there a protest vote against Trump by some GOP voters who either skip the presidential ballot or vote for another name in the Republican column?

Prediction: Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic primary by a larger margin than the 2-percent edge most polls have been predicting. A protest vote against Trump will be measured by his securing about 75% of the Republicans who vote, meaning one-quarter of the Republicans are not satisfied with the GOP presumptive nominee.

U.S. Senate

Questions/What to Look for: Will Attorney General Kamala Harris have a large commanding lead over the second place finisher or will the race be within 10-15%. If the latter, and that second place finisher is Congress member Loretta Sanchez, that will set up an interesting fall campaign for the first major seat affected by the top two primary. Will Latino voters rally to Sanchez in big numbers? (And how will that affect the thinking of those considering statewide races in 2018? I’m thinking of you, Antonio.)

Prediction: Harris has a comfortable win. If Sanchez qualifies for the finals, her fall campaign will turn on how Sanchez manages to find the sweet spot of corralling enough Democrats while attracting a strong Republican vote.

Shaping the Legislature

Questions/What to Look for: Outside competing interests are pouring in big money to help shape a legislature supportive of their issues. Will a trend of more business friendly Democrats continue to blossom or will labor and progressive candidates score big? Much of the independent expenditures come from advocates on both sides of education and environmental issues and success could lead to dramatic changes on how those issues are addressed by the next legislature. If the environmental candidates do well, will that increase the interest of environmentalist/financial player Tom Steyer to consider a gubernatorial run? Will a dominant Democratic showing increase the chances of the Democrats securing supermajorities in both houses in November? Or will supermajority even matter if a large number of Democratic victors are considered pro-business Democrats?

Prediction: Californians deep-blue hue will only become deeper—at least on the surface. However, business will do well enough to make for some interesting top two runoffs in November and keep the intramural conflicts within the Democratic Party active.

Local Measures

Questions/What to Look for: Many tax and bond measures appear on local ballots. Will success or failure of these measures be a harbinger for how voters will respond to statewide tax and bond measures in the fall? Will success of a nine-county parcel tax to protect the San Francisco Bay mean more regional ventures around the state in the future?

Predictions: According to the historical record, a large number of the tax and bond measures pass at the local level. That record remains intact. However, this may not be an indication of how voters will respond to statewide measures in November. The statewide measures often have more sophisticated opposition campaigns than local measures face. If the San Francisco Bay parcel taxes pass–close, but I think the measure will pass–it will encourage those who believe dealing with some of California’s problems over a sprawling area calls for regional solutions and we will see more efforts in that direction.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Kamala Harris might be in for a surprise in November

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funds for tracking prescription drugsIn the wacky world of California politics, it’s a virtual certainty that no Republican will make it past the June 7 primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. senator Barbara Boxer. California attorney general Kamala Harris has a comfortable — but not overwhelming — lead over fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, a congresswoman from Orange County. Three Republican candidates trail far behind. Due to California’s unusual election rules, the top two vote-getters in the primary — regardless of party affiliation — will face each other in November. If the current polling stands, the general election to fill the senate seat Boxer has held since 1992 will likely be a contest between two liberal Democrats: Harris (now at 27 percent) and Sanchez (at 14 percent).

The most popular Republican currently in the race — with a scant 5 percent in the polls — is Ron Unz. A gadfly businessman-activist and former 1994 gubernatorial candidate, Unz espouses an eclectic platform that includes raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, restricting immigration, and challenging the science behind “climate change.” Unz, who admits that his primary reason for running is to head off efforts to repeal Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure he championed to dismantle California’s ruinous bilingual education system, has the endorsement of Ron Paul. Former California Republican Party chairman George “Duf” Sundheim, a Bay Area attorney, languishes at 2 percent. The previous Republican “frontrunner,” GOP state assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who had been polling in the single digits, dropped out in February due to fundraising difficulties.

The Democrats’ poll rankings have remained relatively steady for months, despite the millions raised and spent by Harris. Demographic shifts and an exodus of middle-class voters have turned California into a one-party state. In statewide races, the GOP has become irrelevant; Republican candidates regularly lose by over a million votes. Accepting the “lesser-of-two-evils” reality of California politics, the right-leaning Orange County Register recently endorsed Sanchez, largely because of her opposition to the Iraq War, USA PATRIOT Act and the $700 billion bank bailout.

It’s a testament to liberal hegemony in California that Sanchez is considered a moderate. She has a 100 percent score from Planned Parenthood, a zero rating from the American Conservative Union, an “F” from the National Rifle Association, and a record of voting with Nancy Pelosi (when she was House speaker) 97.8 percent of the time. Sanchez has taken flack for her suggestion — based on experts’ estimates — that between 5 and 20 percent of American Muslims are potential radicals who support the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Her statement, issued in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack in December, was immediately (and predictably) criticized by the Council on Islamic-American Relations and other Muslim groups. Harris, by contrast, has called opposition to resettling Syrian refugees “purely anti-Muslim rhetoric.” “We have to embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters wherever they are and not assume that because of the God they pray to and believe in that they are terrorists that are going to harm us when they come here,” she declared in a recent debate.

Given the Left’s dominance in California, Republican Sundheim’s warning that the stylish Harris is an unprincipled tool of the public employee unions, trial lawyers and environmentalists — not to mention an enemy of law enforcement — won’t have much effect on her support among Democrats. She is a popular two-term attorney general and the media’s darling. Her record as a consumer advocate who favors gun control and comprehensive immigration reform has great appeal to her party’s core voters.

In the final weeks of the primary campaign, Harris and Sanchez will campaign as the unabashed liberals they are, almost certainly finishing first and second in a crowded field of 34 candidates. November, however, may be a different story. Harris, who will out-poll Sanchez in June, could nonetheless lose in November. Sanchez has several advantages heading into the general election. Southern California’s large Hispanic population will likely turn out for her. Moreover, Golden State Republicans, having no candidate of their own to support, will be forced to choose between Harris and Sanchez. GOP voters in California are a minority but they still number in the millions. In a presidential election year, they will turn out in force. Expect them to vote for the least liberal of the Senate candidates on the ballot — Loretta Sanchez.

CA U.S. Senate candidates quarrel over illegal immigration

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Democrats Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris, as they’ve campaigned for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat, have time and again advocated for a federal immigration overhaul – with Sanchez calling it a “moral imperative,” and Harris arguing it’s the civil rights issue of the current age.

There was little distance between the rivals’ broader immigration policy pronouncements at Monday night’s televised debate in Stockton, but there were clear differences on the finer points.

Sanchez, a congresswoman for nearly two decades, opted for the GOP-favorite phrase “family values” to assert families with mixed immigration status should not be separated. She blames Republicans for the morass.

Harris agreed that those in the shadows need a pathway to citizenship, yet she …