journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran

By AB Wire

As expected, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris got the first place and her closest rival Loretta Sanchez second place in California’s U.S. Senate primary. The two Democrats will face off in a November runoff, as the rules allow for the top two contenders, regardless of party affiliations, to go through to the fall elections.

Fox News reported Harris and Sanchez will fight again to succeed the retiring Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate. Harris and Sanchez dominated a crowded field of 34 candidates in last night’s primary election to advance in the race for the state’s first open U.S. Senate seat in more than 20 years.

“Tonight California spoke and it said that we are a state that is unified,” Harris said, in her victory speech. “We are clear of purpose. Our unity is our strength and our diversity is our power. And I am just thrilled. We have worked so hard. … I am a proud daughter of California and I could not be more proud than tonight. When I look at who spoke … in this very important election, it was about all of us together — African-American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, LGBT.”

Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics and who was communications director for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, writing in The Wall Street Journal, noted that the Democrats have overwhelmed the Republicans in the state.

“There are more than 3,600 hours left until the polls close on Nov. 8. But it is already safe to call the U.S. Senate race in California. The winner will be a Democrat: The only question is which one. For the first time in modern California history, a statewide general election campaign will be contested by two members of the same political party, a function of California’s top-two primary system and the self-destruction of the state Republican Party,” he wrote.

Despite finishing first by a more than 2-to-1 margin over her closest competitor, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County, Harris knows that she will face a much more formidable challenge in the fall from her fellow Democrat than from the Republican sacrificial lamb who would have lined up against her before the new primary rules were approved in 2010, added Schnur.

Harris will be a strong front-runner at the start, but Sanchez could run a competitive campaign, particularly if her more moderate approach on economic and national security issues can attract Republicans and non-affiliated voters and if she can motivate her Latino base to turn out in larger numbers than such voters have historically, he added.

In other primaries, incumbent Rep. Ami Bera came out on top in his district to qualify for the November elections, and Ro Khanna pulled off a surprise first place finish over incumbent veteran Democrat Mike Honda.

Bera came out on top in the 7th Congressional District in Tuesday night’s primary. The Sacramento Democrat received 53.3% of the vote, according to the Secretary of State’s results. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican, received 46.7%. Mail-in and provisional ballots are still being counted, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In May, Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, pleaded guilty to illegally funneling more than a quarter of a million dollars to his son’s 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

The congressman has said that neither he nor campaign aides knew of his father’s activities until they were contacted by federal prosecutors. An aide said Ami Bera wrote a check from his political account to the U.S. Treasury on the day of the plea to cover the entire amount identified by prosecutors.

Republicans have pushed Bera to provide more information about what happened, and political observers questioned how the lingering questions might affect voters.

Before Tuesday’s results came in, the second-term congressman said he expected to pull in only 40% of the vote and lose the primary to Scott. He lost the primary in his previous two races, but he won in the general.

“I wouldn’t read too much into the results,” he said by phone. “Historically in the primary, we have fewer younger voters, fewer minority voters.”

Also, in Congressional District 17, repeat challenger Khanna beat Honda, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

This was a stark contrast from the 2014 primary, when Khanna trailed Honda (D-San Jose) by 20 points. Khanna has been building up momentum toward what is sure to be a lively rematch of the last election. As of the last count, Khanna has 33,785 votes, and Honda has 33,608.

Both will square off in November as the top two finishers in the 17th Congressional District, which includes much of Silicon Valley, including Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and part of San Jose.

Khanna, a Fremont attorney, holds a much stronger hand than he did in 2014. While Honda, who is seeking a ninth term in Congress, trampled Khanna, 48 percent to 28 percent, in the primary two years ago, Khanna slashed that margin dramatically Tuesday.

“With individuals ready to trample on the middle class bankrolling my opponent’s campaign, we know that this is going to be one of the closest congressional races in the country,” Honda said in a statement issued late Tuesday, reported the Chronicle.

Despite Khanna’s strong showing, the contest is far from over. In 2014, Khanna rallied from a terrible primary bruising to lose by just four percentage points in the November election. Both men have said throughout the campaign that they expect the typically large Democratic turnout during a presidential election year to carry them to the top in the fall.

In a district where Democrats have a 44 percent to 19 percent registration edge over Republicans, the GOP contenders in the primary ran far down the track.

Khanna, 39, never really stopped running after his 2014 loss, announcing his new campaign just months after his defeat. But rather than presenting himself principally as the congressman from tech-heavy Silicon Valley, as he did during his unsuccessful challenge to Honda, Khanna this time concentrated more on local issues, showing up at city events to talk about regional problems.

Honda, 74, who had not faced a serious re-election threat before 2014, also upped his campaign game, spending more time in the district and telling voters nonstop about what he has done for the region in his years in public office.

It was a tough primary campaign that is likely to get nastier in the months leading to the November election. Khanna has slammed Honda continually on a House ethics investigation into allegations that the congressman’s staff broke rules by working too closely with his campaign team.

For his part, Honda has characterized Khanna as someone more interested in getting elected to Congress than in actually serving the community.

 

This story was originally published on The American Bazaar.