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Democrats Harris, Sanchez Advance To US Senate Runoff

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Kamala Harris / Loretta Sanchez

Kamala Harris, left, and Loretta Sanchez, right, are pictured in these undated photos.

UPDATE: 12:23 a.m. June 8, 2016

In a historic first, California voters Tuesday sent two minority women, both Democrats, to a November runoff for the state's open U.S. Senate seat.

The matchup between state Attorney General Kamala Harris and 10-term Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez marks the first time since voters started electing senators a century ago that Republicans will be absent from California's general election ballot for the Senate.

The two were among 34 candidates seeking the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Under California election rules, only two candidates — the top vote-getters — advance to the November election.

Harris had a wide lead in early returns and was ahead in all but a handful of the state's 58 counties. Sanchez, from Orange County, was holding steady in second place.

With 3.4 million votes tallied, Harris had just over 1.4 million votes, or 40 percent. Sanchez was at 17 percent, with about 580,000 votes. Harris was performing strongly in the San Francisco Bay Area, her stronghold, but was also leading in strongly Hispanic Los Angeles County and was about tied with Sanchez in the congresswoman's home county, Orange.

Republican candidates were lagging in single digits. Duf Sundheim, a Silicon Valley lawyer and a former chairman of the California Republican Party, was leading a cluster of Republicans trailing the two Democrats.

If elected this fall, Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, would set historical marks. She would become the first Indian woman to hold a Senate seat and the second black woman elected to the Senate. Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was elected in 1992 and served one term.

Sanchez, if elected, could become one of the first Latinas to hold a U.S. Senate seat. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is also Hispanic, is the Democratic candidate for outgoing Sen. Harry Reid's seat in Nevada.

The fact that both spots were taken by Democrats reaffirms the party's dominance in the nation's most populous state.

California once was a reliable Republican state in presidential elections. But the party has seen its numbers erode for years, and it now accounts for a meager 27 percent of registered voters.

Democrats control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature, while holding a registration edge of nearly 2.8 million voters.

With 12 Republicans on the ballot — and none widely known to voters — the GOP vote was splintered Tuesday, undercutting the party's chances of advancing a candidate to November.

UPDATE: 12:10 a.m. June 8, 2016

Kamala Harris claimed one of the two spots Tuesday in the runoff for California's Senate seat. Harris had 40 percent of the vote, while Loretta Sanchez had 17 percent of the vote with 49 percent of precincts reporting. Duf Sundheim was the leading Republican with 9 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: 10:12 p.m. June 7, 2016

Special Feature Election Results

Kamala Harris called for eliminating the income divide, comprehensive immigration reform and criminal justice reform in a celebration rally in San Francisco Tuesday night.

Harris said the June election was historic and was about people coming together.

If elected this fall, Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, would set historical marks. She would become the first Indian woman to hold a Senate seat and the second black woman elected to the Senate. Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was elected in 1992 and served one term.

"Our diversity is our strength," Harris said Tuesday night.

She encouraged her supporters to keep on working towards the November election.

She warned that voters in the upcoming campaign would "hear a lot of that rhetoric that tries to divide us, that is trying to tell us that somehow, we should start pointing fingers at who all among us is to blame, instead of understanding that instead, we should be embracing and wrapping our arms around each other, understanding we are all in this together."

UPDATE: 9:12 p.m. June 7, 2016

California U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris claimed one of two spots in the November runoff Tuesday, moving the state attorney general into a potentially historic election.

Harris had a wide lead in early returns Tuesday. She was trailed by fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman from Orange County.

Republican Duf Sundheim, a Silicon Valley lawyer and a former chairman of the California Republican Party, was leading a cluster of Republicans trailing the two Democrats.

UPDATE: 8:47 p.m. June 7, 2016

Kamala Harris is leading with 41 percent of the vote, while Loretta Sanchez has 17 percent of the vote with 11 percent of the precincts reporting. Duf Sundheim is the leading Republican in the race with 10 percent.

UPDATE: 8:11 p.m. June 7, 2016

Kamala Harris is leading in early election returns. Harris has 32 percent of the vote, while Loretta Sanchez has 19% of the vote. Duf Sundheim is the leading Republican with 11 percent of the vote.

The top two vote-getters will proceed to the runoff in November, regardless of party.

Original story:

California voters face a historic choice for U.S. Senate that could for the first time pit two Democrats against each other in the general election. Both candidates are women, and both are minorities.

A series of polls in advance of Tuesday's primary suggest Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County, both Democrats, will face off again in the November contest.

Overall, 34 candidates will be on the ballot to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat first elected in 1992. They will appear on a single ballot, and voters can choose any candidate, regardless of party.

But California's unusual election rules allow only two — the top vote-getters — to advance to the November election.

The fact that both spots could be taken by Democrats reaffirms the party's dominance in the nation's most populous state.

If the Democrats do prevail, it would be the first time since voters started electing senators a century ago that Republicans have been absent from California's general election ballot for the Senate. Before that, senators were appointed by the Legislature.

California once was a reliable Republican state in presidential elections. But the party has seen its numbers erode for years, and it now accounts for a meager 27 percent of registered voters.

Democrats control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature, while holding a registration edge of nearly 2.8 million voters.

Photo by Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED

Tom Del Beccaro, Duf Sundheim and Ron Unz, Republican candidates for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat.

With 12 Republicans on the ballot — and none widely known to voters — it's likely the GOP vote will be splintered, weakening the party's chances of advancing a candidate to November.

Still, a surprise is possible with a large field and polls showing many undecided voters. The leading Republicans are:

— Del Beccaro, 54, a small-business attorney and former chairman of the state GOP.

— Duf Sundheim, a Silicon Valley lawyer and another former chairman of the California Republican Party.

— Ron Unz, 54, a Harvard University-educated theoretical physicist-turned-software developer who sold a company he founded, Wall Street Analytics Inc., to Moody's Corp. in 2006.

As fellow Democrats, Harris and Sanchez hold similar positions on many issues, including abortion rights and immigration reform.

But a fall contest would create demographic and geographical contrasts for state voters: Sanchez is Hispanic with roots in Southern California, while Harris is from the San Francisco Bay Area, and her father is black and her mother Indian.

Sanchez, if elected, could become one of the first Latinas to hold a U.S. Senate seat. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is also Hispanic, is the Democratic candidate for outgoing Sen. Harry Reid's seat in Nevada.

Harris could become the second black woman elected to the Senate. Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was elected in 1992 and served one term. She also would be the first Indian woman to hold a Senate seat — her mother was born in India and came to the U.S. in 1960.

Harris, 51, a career prosecutor, has played up winning a big settlement with banks accused of improper mortgage foreclosures and her work to defend the state's landmark climate change law.

Sanchez, 56, has stressed her national security credentials built up during 10 terms in Washington.

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