- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PHILADELPHIA | California’s racially charged all-Democrat Senate race has spilled onto the Democratic National Convention as the candidates continued to feud over President Obama’s endorsement of one over the other.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, the recipient of Mr. Obama’s blessing, said Monday that she thought Rep. Loretta Sanchez should apologize to the president for suggesting that race played a role in the endorsement. Ms. Harris is black and Ms. Sanchez Hispanic.

“I find it very troubling, and I think that that is not the voice or perspective of a leader,” Ms. Harris told Fox11 in Los Angeles.

“Especially in these times, where if you want to be a leader, you should understand it’s in the best interest of our country to bring people together, not divide them, and certainly not based on race,” Ms. Harris said. “I frankly think she should apologize to the president of the United States.”

But Ms. Sanchez, a 10-term congresswoman who placed second to Ms. Harris in California’s top-two primary, showed no signs of backing down, reiterating her contention that Mr. Obama should not have taken sides in the all-Democratic race.

“I think the president as head of the Democratic Party should be campaigning for our senators who are running against Republicans in other states, or helping Hillary,” Ms. Sanchez told KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “Why is he getting into this?”

She once again cast herself as the outsider in the race, saying she was running against the party establishment.

“You know, the party establishment, the insiders, decided a long time ago who they were going to put up, and they discouraged all of us from running,” said Ms. Sanchez in the interview. “And I was the only one that stood up and said, ‘You know what? People deserve a choice. They get to decide. And I’ve got the experience.’”

Both candidates are attending the Democratic National Convention this week with at least two goals in mind: supporting presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and building visibility for their own campaigns with public appearances and media interviews.

Ms. Sanchez won the visibility battle on Day 1 when she appeared on stage Monday night with her sister, fellow Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of California, who pointed out that they were the only two sisters ever to have served in Congress.

Linda Sanchez drew more cheers when she predicted that a Democratic Hispanic woman would be elected to the Senate in November, then held up her sister’s arm, boxer-style.

Also running for Senate this year is former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running against Republican Rep. Joe Heck for the seat being vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

“Our caucus is growing, and this November we have the opportunity to elect outstanding Hispanic candidates from across the country. With Loretta Sanchez and Catherine Cortez Masto, we will elect a Latina to the U.S. Senate,” said Linda Sanchez.

Mr. Obama sparked an intraparty feud last week by endorsing Ms. Harris, a snub that clearly blindsided Ms. Sanchez, who issued a blistering statement accusing her opponent of being the candidate of the “entrenched political establishment.”

“I think they have, what he said they have, is a friendship of many years. She is African-American, as is he. They know each other through meetings,” Ms. Sanchez said in Spanish in an interview with Univision 19.

The comment underlined a racial divide in the Senate contest that is also borne out by polling. A Field Poll released July 8 showed 66 percent of black voters favor Ms. Harris, while Ms. Sanchez’s support among Hispanics is more than double that of her opponent.

In a speech Tuesday at the California delegation breakfast, Ms. Harris tried to show her solidarity with the Hispanic community with references to racial differences in wages and the criminal justice system.

“Latinas are earning 54 cents on the dollar as compared to white men,” said Ms. Harris.

She later said, “We know that a Latino young man — a juvenile, a minor — is 50 percent more likely to be arrested than his white counterpart.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday he wasn’t sure what Ms. Sanchez “intended to imply.”

“The president’s endorsement, though, I think spoke volumes about his deep appreciation for Attorney General Harris‘ service and her skill,” he said. “And that’s led President Obama to conclude that she would make an excellent successor to Barbara Boxer, representing California in the United States Senate. The president certainly stands by that endorsement and is quite enthusiastic about it.”

The Field Poll showed Ms. Harris leading the contest 39 percent to 24 percent, but with 22 percent still undecided.

Ms. Sanchez’s strength with Hispanics could be a concern for the Harris campaign, given that they now comprise a plurality of the California population at nearly 39 percent, followed in order by whites, Asians and blacks.

In terms of those eligible to vote, however, whites outnumber Hispanics by a 2-1 margin, but Hispanics outnumber Asians by 2-to-1 and blacks by 4-to-1, according to the Pew Research Center.

California voters approved the top-two primary system in 2010, but this year marks the first time in state history that two Democrats have faced off in the Senate race.

“Of course I’m disappointed that the president would wade into a Democrat-on-Democrat race,” Ms. Sanchez said. “Californians should decide this.”

Dave Boyer contributed to this report from Washington.

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