Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Kamala Harris, Loretta Sanchez meet for U.S. Senate debate

US Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Philadelphia on July 25, 2016.
US Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. hamezcua@sacbee.com

As Eminem once said, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”

We’ve arrived at our only general election debate in the surprisingly sleepy race for California’s first open U.S. Senate seat in 24 years – and perhaps Loretta Sanchez’s last chance to turn around the dynamic of a campaign that has seen trailing her frontrunner Kamala Harris by double digits for months.

While Sanchez, a Democratic congresswoman from Orange, muscled past three poorly funded Republican opponents in the primary to set up a historic same-party runoff, she has been mostly quiet since then. More recent attacks on Harris’ record as attorney general – failing to lower the crime rate, investigate the closure of San Onofre or prosecute Trump University – have yet to stick.

Tonight’s debate, which takes place at 7 p.m. on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles, will provide Sanchez with the biggest audience yet for her message, which aims to unite Latinos and Republicans by touting her 20 years of experience in Congress and national security chops. Christopher Cadelago has a cheat sheet on what to watch for.

But it’s unclear how much of a boost the event could actually provide; outside of Los Angeles, the debate will air only on C-SPAN or streaming online. Sanchez declined to participate in another debate in Sacramento.

WORTH REPEATING: “​It’s going to come down to 12 states. California is not one of them.​” - Doug Ose, former GOP congressman from Sacramento and Donald Trump supporter, assessing the presidential race for Capitol Weekly.

CLIMB-ATE EV’RY MOUNTAIN: One of the biggest fights of the legislative session ended with Gov. Jerry Brown signing an extension of California’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets – and just in time for the 10th anniversary of the landmark original law, which Brown will join former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today to celebrate. Both are set to speak at an event, 12:30 p.m. at the California Museum on O Street and streaming online, intended to highlight California as a leader on the environment. It will also feature the law’s authors, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, as well as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board.

BY THE NUMBERS: Proposition 62, the November ballot initiative to abolish California’s death penalty, has drawn its largest contributions from Silicon Valley executives and other wealthy entrepreneurs, but Sir Richard Branson is not among them. Though the Virgin Group founder endorsed the initiative, which would replace capital punishment with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, he has thus far given $0 to the effort. (The campaign has raised more than $5.1 million.) Branson will join several death row exonerees for a roundtable discussion in support of Proposition 62 tonight in San Francisco.

CHECKMATE: What’s the most famous death penalty case in California history? Arguably that of Caryl Chessman, who was sentenced to die for a series of robberies, rapes and kidnappings in Los Angeles in 1948. After writing several books, one of which was turned into a movie, he became an international figure in the movement to abolish capital punishment. Acting as his own lawyer, Chessman successfully avoided eight executions deadlines over the course of more than a decade. But despite the sympathy of then-Gov. Pat Brown – who was lobbied by his son, Jerry, then 20 years old and an ardent death penalty opponent, to grant a stay – Chessman was finally executed in May 1960. Political consultant Joe Rodota, who wrote a forthcoming play on the case; Pat Brown biographer Ethan Rarick; and State Library archivist Michael Dolgushkin will discuss the legacy of the Chessman case, 10 a.m. at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building on Capitol Mall.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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