Capitol Alert

A cheat sheet for the Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez U.S. Senate debate

California voters longing for a one-on-one confrontation between the two Democrats competing to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer get their wish at 7 p.m., when Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez debate in Los Angeles.

The hourlong clash on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles, comes as Sanchez looks to narrow the gap with Harris, the prohibitive front-runner since entering the race last January.

After muscling past a trio of underfunded Republicans in the primary, and lying low throughout the summer, Sanchez entered the final stretch of the campaign stepping up her attacks against Harris.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles, views the debate as a unique opportunity to see the candidates.

“We expect a wide-ranging debate, and the voters will get to see what their approaches are and where they differ,” he said. “With two Democrats in the final, it’s more of a challenge for the voter; so seeing them on the same stage will really help.”

What to watch

While the pair shared the debate stage this spring in Stockton, and later in San Diego, those events featured Republican challengers Tom Del Beccaro, Duf Sundheim and Ron Unz. Sanchez, a congresswoman from Orange, did challenge Harris directly, but the attorney general was never rattled.

With less than five weeks until Election Day, time is running short for Sanchez to alter the dynamic of the race. Analysts expect her to press her case, seeing the debate as a sort of last stand.

Here’s where they may go:

Sanchez often talks up her foreign policy and military credentials, including expertise in homeland security and counter-terrorism, and points to her votes against the federal bank bailout, Patriot Act and Iraq War. She touts endorsements from Republicans, as well as Democratic House colleagues, and embraces a law-and-order approach to crime-fighting.

On Tuesday, she slammed Harris as the “top cop-out,” rather than the state’s top cop, blaming her for the “shocking” rise in crime last year.

In recent weeks, Sanchez made direct appeals to Democrats and more liberal voters by questioning Harris’ commitment to protecting the environment, homeowners, students, low-income families and Latinos.

Harris’ campaign responded in each case with a critique on Sanchez’s record, suggesting she’s resorting to “Trump-like smears” while protecting deep-pocketed interests like the gun industry and for-profit colleges.

Harris and supporters rip Sanchez for voting on gun-industry protections and 1999 legislation boosting mandatory minimums for nonviolent crimes. They note her siding with the for-profit colleges in their efforts to hold off strict government regulations. Sanchez also could be vulnerable to criticism for her light legislative record and for being among the most absent members of Congress.

Harris, meantime, trumpets her fight against the big banks following the mortgage crisis, her efforts to crack down on for-profit colleges and transnational gangs and her lawsuits to protect the environment.

How to watch

C-SPAN will have live coverage of the debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The broadcast also will be streamed on Cal State LA’s website and air live on KABC in Los Angeles. Follow the action live on Twitter via the hashtag #CALSenDebate16

Meet the candidates

Kamala D. Harris

Party: D

Age: 51

Birthplace: Oakland

Residence: Los Angeles


Occupation: Attorney general of California

Education: Law degree, UC Hastings College of Law, 1989; bachelor’s degree, political science and economics, Howard University, 1986.

Experience: Attorney general, California, 2011-present; district attorney, San Francisco, 2004-2011.

Loretta Sanchez

Party: D

Age: 56

Birthplace: Lynwood

Residence: Orange


Occupation: California congresswoman

Education: Master’s degree, business administration, American University, 1984; bachelor’s degree, economics, Chapman University, 1982.

Experience: Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives, 1996-present; principal, Amiga Advisors, 1993-1996; associate, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, 1990-1993; assistant vice president, Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates, 1987-1990.

Where they stand


Kamala Harris: Washington’s failure on this issue has forced more than 11 million undocumented immigrants to live, work and raise a family in the shadows of our society. That’s unconscionable. I support immigration reform that includes a fair path to citizenship.

Loretta Sanchez: Immigration reform is the moral imperative of our nation. A pathway to citizenship means it leads to citizenship. We should not create a new generation of second-class citizens who are not afforded the same rights and responsibilities.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Harris: I support increasing trade, but any trade agreement must protect workers and safeguard the world-class environmental protections we have worked so hard to pass in California. I am not satisfied TPP protects those priorities and would not support it.

Sanchez: TPP will hurt American workers because they are forced to compete with workers in countries that offer little to no employee protections, in addition to poor human rights records. This will hurt development and manufacturing at home in California.

The Islamic State

Harris: We need to fight ISIS on two fronts: internationally by bringing the world together to defeat them militarily, and domestically by partnering with our Muslim neighbors to fight radicalization here. I don’t support sending U.S. combat troops to Syria.

Sanchez: We must focus on providing resources to counter ISIL’s message through the internet, coordinate with our allies and increase representation of minority groups in the region and address the Syrian refugee crisis as it fuels ISIL’s influence.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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