Loretta Sanchez gaining support in race for U.S. Senate, thanks to boost from Latinos

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, left; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, right.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, left; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, right.  (Getty)

Rep. Loretta Sanchez is trailing fellow Democrat State Attorney General Kamala Harris in her bid to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, but the second-place candidate is gaining momentum, thanks to Latinos.

A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows Sanchez, a Democrat, behind Harris, 26 percent to 17 percent. Behind them are former state Republican chairman Tom Del Beccaro, who has 10 percent, and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, another Republican, who has 9 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times. Former state Republican Party leader George Sundheim announced his candidacy last week, too recently to be included the poll, the Times said.

Among Latinos in the survey, Sanchez was the clear favorite – she’s preferred over Harris, 34 percent to 18 percent.

More than a third of the respondents to the survey say they are not decided whom they will pick in the June primary election.

Those coming in first and second in the primary will then face each other in the November, 2016 election, the Times said.

"Unless the Republicans coalesce behind one single candidate, we will probably end up seeing a runoff between two Democrats," the Times quoted poll director Dan Schnur of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics as saying.

Boxer announced in January she wouldn't seek a fifth term, setting the stage for the 2016 contest.
Democrats are favored to hold the seat.

Sanchez’s promising poll numbers come on the heels of a boost from her House colleagues.
Sanchez has locked up support from several more House colleagues from her home state for her Senate race.

A statement from her campaign Thursday announced she had picked up endorsements from Reps. Mark Takano of Riverside, Grace Napolitano of El Monte, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Scott Peters of San Diego.

The 10-term congresswoman has endorsements from about a dozen Democratic House members from California.

To be sure, Sanchez has some hurdles to jump in order to catch up to, and surpass, Harris. She lacks the statewide recognition that Harris enjoys.

Sanchez is best known in her district, Orange County.

Harris, by contrast, is known statewide by virtue of her position, and therefore has a fundraising edge all across the state.

Some groups that supported Sanchez in her congressional runs say that while they admire her, they are endorsing Harris.

Some experts believes many in the Democratic leadership who lined up behind Harris after her announcement earlier this year might have supported Sanchez had she not waited so long to throw her hat in the ring. Harris announced her candidacy in January, Sanchez in May.

The support for Harris by many top Democrats angered many California Latinos, who denounced the “anointing” of someone so soon, and took offense at what they saw as an indifference to their strong presence in the state.

The race is momentous in several ways – two women are vying for a powerful seat in one of the most politically important states in the nation. And they’re both minorities, reflecting the changing demographics not just of California, but of the nation.

Harris, whose father is African-American and mother is Asian-American, is from northern California and immediately received support from top Democrats in Washington D.C., angering many Latinos in the Golden State.

Sanchez is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and is from southern California.

Both women have blazed trails.

Harris become the first female, African-American and Asian-American state attorney general.

Sanchez and her sister, Linda – who has represented the 38th Congressional district in California since 2003 – were the first sisters to be in Congress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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