Attorney General Kamala Harris trounced Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez in the race for California’s open U.S. Senate seat.
With all 24,847 precincts statewide reporting as of Wednesday morning, Harris led with 62.5 percent of the vote to Sanchez’s 37.5 percent. Among Orange County voters, Sanchez also lost to Harris. With all 1,668 Orange County precincts counted, Harris had 54.8 percent of the 699,055 votes cast to Sanchez’ 45.2 percent.
For the first time, Californians chose between two candidates from the same party to serve as one of the state’s senators. Both Harris and Sanchez are Democrats. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is retiring and the election also marked the first time in 24 years California elected a new senator.
Sanchez is vacating her 46th district Congressional for her Senate run. While the congresswoman enjoyed mostly landslide victories in her congressional races, she trailed Harris by more than 1.5 million votes in the June primaries.
In her election night speech to supporters, Sanchez hinted the loss does not mean the end of her political career.
“Even if we don’t make it over the line tonight,” Sanchez said, pausing for effect. “Never underestimate Loretta Sanchez.”
In her official concession statement Wednesday, she reinforced the idea her political career isn’t over.
“Today, I called Ms. Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her win to the U.S. Senate,” Sanchez said in a news release. “As she prepares to head to Washington to represent the people of California, I offer my support…. Although we don’t know what our future will be, I can tell you that this is not the last that people will see of me.”
Leading up to Election Day, Harris outpaced Sanchez in the polls and in campaign fundraising and spending.
Harris, San Francisco’s former district attorney, had $14 million in campaign funds and spent $13.5 million, according to federal campaign filings.
Sanchez raised just $4.4 million, spending over $3 million of it.
Harris was endorsed by President Obama and the California Democratic Party.
She made an issue of Sanchez’ attendance record in Congress while Sanchez criticized Harris for not taking a strong public stand on police shootings.
For example, during their debate last month, Sanchez said Harris was absent from the national debate on police shootings and that she should have supported an state Assembly bill that would have appointed a special prosecutor for police shootings.
Harris said she didn’t support Assembly Bill 86 because it would take away control from District Attorneys throughout the state. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said he plans to reintroduce the bill. The bill was introduced last year, but died in the legislature.
The state Attorney General called out Sanchez’s legislative attendance record at their debate last month at Cal State Los Angeles.
“I think it is important that you show up,” Harris said. “… when you have been appointed to be the chair of the anti-terrorism task force and you don’t show up once, that should call into question your commitment to protecting our country’s national security interests.”
Sanchez has missed 1,073 out of 13,450 votes since 1997, according to the website GovTrack. The site said her 8 percent absentee rate is higher than the median 2.3 percent.
“For the first 18 years in Congress, I have a 95 percent attendance record … that’s a solid A,” Sanchez said.
“The record shows that the Congresswoman missed over 70 percent of the Homeland Security Committee meetings in Congress. The facts speak for themselves,” Harris shot back.
Harris has been state Attorney General for five years and Sanchez served nearly 20 years in Congress.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. Please contact him at SpencerCustodio@gmail.com