By Miguel Sifuentes
Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez blasted President Obama for endorsing her rival in California’s U.S. Senate race. She accused him of being part of the “entrenched political establishment” that has failed California voters.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in late July announced they are endorsing state Attorney General Kamala Harris in California’s historic Democrat-vs.-Democrat U.S. Senate race.
Harris is a longtime ally of the president. He praised Harris as a “lifelong courtroom prosecutor” who would be “…a fearless fighter for the people of California — all the people of California — every single day.”
For Sanchez, the other Democratic candidate, the endorsements are a clear rejection and an added political obstacle. Sanchez has served in Congress for two decades.
In a statement from her campaign, she called Harris’ record as attorney general “troubling.” She unleashed an array of her most pointed criticisms to date, but they may garner less attention in the current endorsement shuffle.
Sanchez said she was “disappointed” that Obama picked sides in a race between Democrats. He should instead be focused on defeating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, she added.
“California’s Senate seat does not belong to the political establishment. It belongs to the People of California, and I believe California voters will make their own independent choice.”
Harris has received a string of major endorsements recently. She’s the candidate of choice for the Democratic Party’s power elite and for the left’s most influential interest groups.
Harris was already endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Democratic Party, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Sanchez supporters expressed dismay that the administration would choose sides in this intra-party contest.
“(W)e have two strong, qualified women of color, and it is unfortunate that instead of letting the voters decide, the Democratic Party along with President Obama are picking sides,” said Martin Diego Garcia, director of the Campaign for Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports Latino candidates.
Sanchez finished a distant second in the June primary with 19 percent of the vote, with Harris getting 40 percent. Harris easily won in a large field of candidates.
Harris also has more than a 3-to-1 advantage over Sanchez in fundraising. The attorney general also held a 15-point lead over Sanchez in the latest Field poll.
The two Democrats will square off in the November election. This will be the highest-profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary system.
Harris’ connection to Obama goes back more than a decade to when she was the San Francisco district attorney. She raised money for Obama when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois and later served as the California co-chair for his 2008 presidential campaign.
Due to that political allegiance, it would have been more surprising if Obama hadn’t endorsed Harris, said John Hanna of Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which supports Sanchez.
The Orange County congresswoman supported Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign against Obama for the Democratic nomination, and that could also be a factor, Hanna said.