Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris received far more than enough votes from party delegates to win their coveted endorsement late Saturday, exceeding most expectations and dealing a potentially harrowing blow to her opponent, veteran Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
The development, which took place at the party’s annual convention here, gives renewed momentum to Harris’ front-runner campaign more than three months before the June 7 primary.
Harris received 78 percent of vote. She needed 60 percent to secure the endorsement.
The show of approbation allows the party to spend on her behalf in traditional ways such as mailers, phone-banking and precinct walks, and provides Harris the right to use its desired seal of approval in the campaign.
Campaigning for the distinction, Harris positioned herself as the best-equipped successor to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, shifting among conference rooms with an entourage of elected leaders, campaign aides and volunteers. Waving at her record as a career prosecutor and then attorney general, Harris spoke in broad strokes about what she sees as the profound and direct impact of law enforcement, her life’s work, on society’s most vulnerable populations.
Her speech on the convention floor Saturday incorporated her support for a pathway to citizenship, expanding voting rights and overturning the court case that unleashed a torrent of money in politics. Harris wrapped her disgust for the intransigence of Washington into a recitation about the politics of poison running though the Republican presidential contest. She called it a race to the bottom.
Seizing on GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s promise to “Make America great again,” Harris asked, “Again for whom?”
She called for rejecting an “us versus them” culture. Interspersed in her call were homages to President Barack Obama, voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and legendary United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez.
Sanchez focused her remarks on her work and the people her preferred policies would affect as she roamed the concourse with just a handful of staff members and her husband. Addressing the convention Saturday, Sanchez cast herself as a progressive and said she believed working people like her family would coalesce around her.
“I know the rank and file in every union are with me,” Sanchez said, offering that she joined independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, in voting against the Iraq war.
Sanchez’s legislative and national security experience are unrivaled, she said. “While other candidates talk about boldly changing Washington – I have done it for 20 years.”