Last night’s debate between U.S. Senate candidates Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez was a feisty and at times nasty exchange on issues ranging from criminal justice reform to water policy, cybersecurity and combatting terrorism.
Sanchez, who finished a distant second in the June primary and trails Harris in every poll, continued a move toward the right in hopes of appealing to undecided voters and Republicans — many of whom tell pollsters they won’t bother voting for one of these two Democrats.
From the very first question about body cameras for police and criminal justice reform, Sanchez was on the attack. She called Harris “absent” on the debate in Sacramento, alluding to her refusal to support legislation by Sen. Mark Leno aimed at opening more police misconduct personnel files to scrutiny.
Harris used the word “absent” for a swift counterattack. “If you’re going to talk about absences, it’s important to show up,” Harris said calling Rep. Sanchez “the number three truant” based on attendance records at House committees in the past year.
There were clashes on other issues that turned personal. Answering a question about student debt, Sanchez attacked Harris for taking campaign contributions from Donald Trump without investigating Trump University in California.
During a colorful, angry riff, Sanchez said Harris took Trump’s money and used it for “first class airfare and first class hotels,” a reference to reports that Harris burned through campaign donations with pricey travel arrangements. Sanchez then mentioned Harris running with “that socialite friend in San Francisco,” a possible reference to the embattled museum board member Dede Wilsey.
Both candidates had to be repeatedly stopped by the moderator after running through indications that their time was up.
But last night’s debate was almost immediately upstaged by news that Harris has snagged the two biggest endorsements still out there: Dianne Feinstein’s and Barbara Boxer’s.
“As Attorney General, she won justice and relief for homeowners who were wronged during the mortgage crisis, strengthened California gun laws and prosecuted polluters,” Feinstein said, adding that “Kamala has been a consistent voice of unity and optimism at a time when too many political leaders have tried to divide our communities along racial and religious lines.”
Sen. Boxer, whose seat Harris and Sanchez are running for, described Harris as the best choice to pick up the liberal mantle she inherited from Alan Cranston.
“For almost 50 years, the seat that I hold has been a leadership seat on human rights, women’s rights, civil rights, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, fair trade, a clean environment and a voice for all families – no matter their circumstances,” Boxer said in a statement released by the Harris campaign.
“Kamala Harris shares those values with me. Her broad array of endorsements underscores this.”
Of the two senators’ endorsements, Feinstein’s will likely matter more. She appeals more to Republicans in places like the Central Valley and others who are either undecided or thinking of not voting at all in this race between two women from the same party.
Watch the full debate: