Kamala Harris on Monday called for Democratic U.S. Senate rival Loretta Sanchez to apologize to President Barack Obama for suggesting he endorsed Harris because they are both black.
“I think she should apologize to the president of the United States,” Harris, the state attorney general, said from the Democratic National Convention. “The more you think about what she said the more clear it becomes that that is not the perspective or the voice of a leader, especially in these times.”
Sanchez, a veteran congresswoman from Orange County, said in a Spanish-language interview airing last weekend that Obama’s endorsement was in part based on race. She noted that Obama and Harris are longtime friends, and then added: “She is African American. He is, too.”
Sanchez said in a statement after the report on Univision 19 that she did not intend to imply Obama endorsed Harris for racial reasons. Sanchez’s comment touched on the long-running, yet seldom discussed, tensions between blacks and Latinos in California politics, and came as she aggressively seeks the votes of Latinos in her campaign to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked about Sanchez’s response Monday, said he wasn’t sure what she intended to imply.
“The president's endorsement, though, I think spoke volumes about his deep appreciation for Attorney General Harris’ service and her skill,” Earnest said. “And that’s what led President Obama to conclude that she would make an excellent successor to Barbara Boxer in representing California in the United States Senate. The president certainly stands by that endorsement and is quite enthusiastic about it.”
On Monday in Philadelphia, Sanchez evaded a reporter who tried to speak with her, ducking out a back door of the downtown Marriott, where the California delegation is staying. Her spokesman has not returned repeated requests over the last several weeks about her schedule at the national convention.
Harris, the the state’s top law enforcement official and its highest-ranking black politician, said Sanchez’s remarks fit a “troubling” pattern. Sanchez has been criticized for making previous comments about Muslims, Native Americans and Asians.
“It’s troubling. It’s incredibly troubling,” Harris said. “That is not the voice of a leader.”
Added Harris: “I think there’s a pattern.”