- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Thirty-four candidates will be on the ballot Tuesday to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. They will appear on a single ballot and voters can choose any candidate, regardless of party. But only two, the top vote-getters, will advance to the November election.

California has a sharp Democratic tilt and, unless there is a surprise, most polling suggests that voters will send two Democratic women to the November ballot: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.

If the trends hold, it would be the first time since the start of direct Senate elections a century ago that a Republican has not appeared on a California general election ballot for U.S. Senate, says Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney. That would underscore the continued withering of California’s GOP, which accounts for only 27 percent of registered voters.

Also, Pitney and other academics say they are unaware of another general election in the country in which two minority women were rival candidates for a U.S. Senate seat.

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

A look at the leading candidates:

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Kamala Harris

The two-term attorney general got in the race just days after Boxer announced her retirement and soon established front-runner status, after building a steady edge in polling and fundraising. She is a heavy favorite to advance to November. Harris, 51, is a career prosecutor, having earlier served as district attorney in San Francisco and a deputy district attorney in Alameda and San Francisco counties. She is the endorsed candidate of the state Democratic Party and has long list of prominent supporters, including Gov. Jerry Brown and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing. She 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, but has faced criticism for running a play-it-safe campaign and not moving more aggressively to investigate some police shootings in San Francisco.

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Loretta Sanchez

Sanchez, 56, steadied her campaign after a bumpy start when she had to apologize after a videotape surfaced showing her making a whooping cry in reference to Native Americans that brought her reprimands from fellow Democrats. The 10-term congresswoman has been stressing her national security credentials from her years in Washington, a not-to-subtle dig at Harris’ background. She often reminds voters that she voted against the Iraq War. She has made strong appeals for support from Hispanics, who will make up a significant chunk of voters Tuesday. Her colorful, sometimes racy personality has occasionally led to awkward moments; she scheduled a fundraiser during the 2000 Democratic National Convention at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion and changed the location only after fellow Democrats protested. She is supported by more than a dozen members of Congress from California.

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Tom Del Beccaro

Del Beccaro, 54, is a small business attorney and was chairman of the California Republican Party form 2011 to 2013. One of his key proposals: applying the same income tax rate to every taxpayer, regardless of income - a concept known as the flat tax. “Tax policy is key to getting the economy to grow. Right now we have a tax policy that stagnates the economy,” he said. Del Beccaro has been critical of Democrats, the dominant political party in California, for the state’s high taxes, troubled schools and problems with poverty. He has also warned about the steady growth of state and local government: “Government isn’t the answer to everything,” he said. His supporters include Rep. Tom McClintock and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

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Duf Sundheim

Sundheim, a Silicon Valley lawyer, was chairman of the California Republican Party from 2003 to 2007, a period when Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor following the recall of unpopular Democrat Gray Davis. The former Stanford University quarterback is a centrist - a fiscal conservative who also supports same-sex marriage, abortion rights and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. The 63-year-old Sundheim has aggressively criticized Harris, accusing her of failing to hold crime in check. He has said he wants to stop the state’s high-speed rail project and shift those funds to addressing water problems, and wants to increase water storage and recycling. He also proposes cutting regulations that he says are driving jobs out of California. His supporters include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and former Secretary of State George Schultz.

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Ron Unz

Unz, 54, is 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. Federal records show he has assets valued between about $2 million to $10 million. While a registered Republican, he doesn’t fit neatly into the GOP template and has a history of going his own way. He has pushed for a higher minimum wage, an issue usually associated with Democrats, and he once ran an insurgent campaign to oust then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a fellow Republican. When the former publisher of The American Conservative magazine entered the Senate race, he acknowledged he was unlikely to win and said his primary reason for running was to bring attention to an effort to repeal Proposition 227 - a ballot proposal he championed in 1998 that dismantled California’s bilingual education system.


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