Capitol Alert

Were they lying? Fact-checking California’s U.S. Senate debate

PoliGRAPH is The Bee's political fact checker, rating campaign advertisements and candidate claims as True, Iffy or False.

California’s five major candidates for the U.S. Senate engaged Monday night in a mostly cordial debate at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. The Sacramento Bee’s Christopher Cadelago analyzes some of the claims made.

Sanchez’s committee attendance

Republican Duf Sundheim’s claim: “(Democrat Loretta Sanchez) talks about her role in terms of Homeland Security, and I think that it’s great that she’s on the committee, but it would be even better if she actually went to the committee hearing meetings. Thirteen of the 18 meetings, she hasn’t gone ...”

Analysis: Sanchez, a nearly two-decade member of Congress from Orange County, serves on the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the aforementioned Committee on Homeland Security. A review of C-SPAN archives turned up evidence mostly supporting Sundheim’s claim.

In 2015, Sanchez was present at the Homeland Security Committee twice on Jan. 21, as well as hearings on July 15 and Sept. 8, the tapes show.

However, she did not appear to be present on Feb. 11, Feb. 25, March 24, March 26, April 14, April 30, May 20, June 3, June 25, July 29, Sept. 30, Oct. 21, Nov. 3, Nov. 4 and Nov. 18 and Dec. 7.

Sanchez’s campaign said her attendance on one committee last year does not tell the whole story. They cited her increased responsibilities on Armed Services, the meetings of which sometimes conflict with those of the other committee, and the failing health of her father.

Overall, an earlier analysis of her House votes showed she missed 20 percent (15 percent in the months before announcing her run), but more this year. She’s missed about 7 percent of the votes since coming to Congress in 1997, according to GovTrack, compared with a median of 2.3 percent for her colleagues.

Harris’ ‘net zero’ immigration

Democrat Kamala Harris’ claim: “We know that there is at this point net zero immigration coming from Mexico.”

Analysis: Several studies confirm Harris’ main point, with the Pew Research Center in a November report finding that more Mexican immigrants have returned home than have migrated here since the end of the recession. It also found the flow of Mexican immigrants was at its smallest since the 1990s.

An earlier Pew study found that not only is the net migration rate zero, it could be negative. Harris used the “net zero” immigration argument to contend that the real discussion over immigration should center on providing a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.

Ron Unz’s crime wave

Unz’s claim: “A couple years ago, California ended up letting large numbers of people out of prison who probably should have been kept behind (bars). And now we are seeing a spike in crime because of that.”

Analysis: Unz wants a balanced approach. He made the comment moments after criticizing the “three-strikes” law as leading to the imprisonment of too many people.

The policy to which he’s pointing is called public safety realignment. While Unz is right that certain crimes such as auto thefts have increased, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, the nonpartisan think tank found no evidence it has affected rates of violent crime as of May of last year.

Sanchez’s Muslim remarks

Sanchez’s claim: “Nobody has been able to refute those numbers. And I have looked at BBC, at Pew Research, at Harvard scholars.”

Analysis: Sanchez was referring to her earlier remark on “PoliticKING with Larry King” that 5 percent to 20 percent of Muslims want to form a caliphate to disrupt “our way of life” in America. When initially asked for a source on the figures, she pointed to the Harvard University Press book, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue.” Later, Sanchez emphasized that she told King she doesn’t know how many Muslims are extremists.

She didn’t back away at the debate and, despite ample criticism that they are too high, Sanchez is correct when she says nobody has refuted her numbers with authoritative research. Much of the concern over the comment came from those who believe it is impossible to estimate a worldwide number.

Harris’ gun program

Sundheim’s claim: “I totally agree with Kamala Harris that we need to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and people that are mentally unstable. But according to the state auditor, she has failed to do that with her policies as attorney general.”

The state auditor three years ago faulted Harris’ department and the court system for failing to communicate about enforcing rules meant to restrict gun ownership by the mentally ill. Then in a follow-up report last summer, Auditor Elaine Howle wrote that Harris’ Justice Department’s “delays in fully implementing certain recommendations result in continued risk to public safety.” As of Dec. 31, 12,691 subjects whose cases have not been investigated were in the database.

Harris, who earlier this year requested permanent funding support for the program, did not dispute Sundheim’s reference to the audit.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

Related stories from Sacramento Bee