Democrat Kamala Harris, laboring to coalesce support from California Latino leaders for her U.S. Senate bid against Rep. Loretta Sanchez, announced endorsements Thursday from Senate President Kevin de León, Sen. Ricardo Lara and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.
Harris had previously secured the backing of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and former Speaker John A. Pérez, endorsements that contrast with key officials in the California Legislative Latino Caucus and Latino Democrats in Congress who have lined up behind Sanchez.
Harris’ ability to court the affirmation of party leaders, including influential Latinos, has angered some Sanchez backers. Speaking ahead of the primary election, Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the California Democratic Party’s assistance of Harris insulting to Latinos across the country, noting that a Democratic Latina has never been elected to the U.S. Senate.
De León, who has worked closely with one-time Senate aspirants Antonio Villaraigosa and Tom Steyer, had largely been absent from the Senate race. When Harris joined the contest last year, de León said he would focus on ensuring the field of candidates reflected the state’s ethnic and regional diversity.
California’s electorate is rapidly changing, challenging past assumptions about how to win statewide elections, de León said at the time, adding that the state has become far more diverse since Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein won their seats in 1992.
“This is an opportunity to have a new generation represent the diversity of California,” he said.
On Thursday, de León called Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, “a leader for all Californians.”
“In this political climate that’s been defined by fear and divisive attacks, I’m proud to stand with Kamala Harris – someone who proudly fights for the best ideals of our state and our democracy,” he said. “We've worked closely together to fight climate change and close loopholes in California’s assault weapons ban, and I know she will be a bold advocate for our state in the Senate.”