It looks like longtime California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who's retiring after 23 years in office, will be replaced by a Democrat — and a woman.
The Associated Press has declared that Attorney General Kamala Harris has clinched first place in the primary, earning her a spot in the runoff. Her opponent is most likely to be Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who's currently in second place.
The election of either Harris or Sanchez would be historic. Sanchez would become the first Latina senator in the history of the United States. Harris would become only the second African-American female to be elected to the Senate, after Illinois' Carol Moseley Braun, who served one term in the 1990s.
The Oakland-born Harris was elected as California's attorney general in 2010, narrowly beating Republican Steve Cooley; she was re-elected in 2014. She was considered the front-runner ever since she declared her candidacy in January 2015, and she's been endorsed by a good chunk of the establishment, including the state Democratic Party and Gov. Jerry Brown. Harris raised more than $10 million — roughly three times as much as Sanchez — and led Sanchez in polls throughout the primary campaign.
But the general election may prove a bit trickier for Harris, now that the field is consolidated. A higher Latino turnout, spurred by the fear of a Donald Trump presidency, may favor Sanchez.
Sanchez was born in Lynwood, a small city in L.A. County. Both her parents are Mexican immigrants. She earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Chapman University, and an MBA from American University in Washington, D.C., and worked as a financial analyst before being elected to Congress in 2003. Her sister, Linda, is also a congresswoman – they are the first pair of sisters to serve together in Congress.
The Sanchez campaign received national attention for a number of high-profile gaffes. In December of last year, she said that between 5 and 20 percent of all Muslims want to restore the caliphate and are willing to resort to terrorism.
In May, while speaking in front of an audience of Indian Americans, she said she's been expecting an audience of Native Americans, saying, “I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a 'woo woo woo woo'” — her depiction of an Indian “war cry.” She apologized the next day, saying: “In this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive, and for that, I sincerely apologize.”
Harris and Sanchez were just two of 34 (!) candidates running to replace Boxer — so many that they took up two pages on ballots — in what's sometimes called the “jungle primary.” According to the state's rules, the top two vote getters of any party face off in the November general election.
Republican Duf Sundheim is currently in third place.