UPDATE at 5:20 p.m., Thursday, May 14: Sanchez's spokesman says Harris is playing "follow the leader."
Rep. Loretta Sanchez entered the race for U.S. Senate today, presenting the first obstacle in Kamala Harris' path to Washington. While she faces long odds, Sanchez is likely to force Harris to sharpen her positions and compete for the support of Democratic interest groups and constituencies.
A case in point is the hottest issue in Washington right now, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama is urging Congress to approve fast-track authority to complete the agreement, but he's run into stiff opposition from the left flank of his own party.
Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) has been particularly outspoken. In March, she penned an op/ed in The Hill in which she blasted the trade pact, calling it "a bad deal for American workers."
When asked about the TPP before, Harris has been vague. She told the San Francisco Chronicle last month that she wanted to "strike a balance" that "allows America's economy to prosper." Whatever that means.
Today, however, she came out firmly against it. Here's the full statement her campaign gave the Weekly:
In the Senate, I'll be focused on doing what's in the best interest of California and the people of our state, just as I have been as Attorney General. I support finding ways to increase trade opportunities, but any trade agreement must protect workers and safeguard the world-class environmental protections we have worked so hard to create in California. Based on the details that have been released, the agreement does not ensure either of those priorities will be safeguarded and I would not support it.
Not much wiggle room there.
In coming out against the trade deal, Harris is going against Obama, a longtime ally. But she is siding with most of the Democratic Party, including senators like Elizabeth Warren, who has been leading opposition to the deal.
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The Senate today voted 65-33 to move forward with consideration of fast-track authority. The vote split the Democratic Party, with California's two Democratic senators taking opposite sides. Sen. Barbara Boxer joined with Warren and 31 others in voting no, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined 12 other Democrats and 52 Republicans in supporting the measure.
On this issue at least, Harris looks more like the liberal Boxer than the centrist Feinstein. With Sanchez now in the race, Harris may have to take clearer stands on a range of other issues as well.
UPDATE at 5:20 p.m., Thursday, May 14: Late this afternoon, Bill Carrick, Sanchez's consultant, said that Harris is playing "follow the leader."
"Loretta Sanchez reaffirms her opposition to TPP this AM and Kamala Harris announces her position for the first time later the same day. Seems to be a case of Follow the Leader," Carrick said via e-mail.