Thanks to California's open primary rules, two Democrats will be facing off in the November election for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. It will be the first time a Republican will not be on the state's November ballot.
In 2010, Californians voted to transform the primary process into an open primary, ending the process of Democrats and Republicans putting forward their own general election candidates. Instead, congressional hopefuls of both parties were expected to all compete in the same primary race, CNN reports.
The innovative approach to whittling down candidates for the November election has been nicknamed the “jungle primary.”
On June 7, California primary voters were able to vote on a staggering 34 candidates from all political parties. The two victors were Democrats: California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California.
Harris has been positioned as the heavy favorite for the November election, winning 40.4 percent of the primary vote. Sanchez came in second with 18.5 percent of the vote. Coming in third was former Chairman Duf Sundheim of the California Republican Party, who only gained 10 percent of the vote.
Sundheim’s failure to come in first or second means that Californians will have to choose between two Democrats come the November election. Both Harris and Sanchez would contribute diversity to the Senate; Harris would be the second African-American woman to ever occupy the chamber while Sanchez would be the first Latina.
“There are all sorts of differences between Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, but obviously, gender is not one of them,” politics director Dan Schnur of the University of Southern California told MSNBC.
Harris has amassed considerable backing for her Senate bid. During the open primary, she raised $11 million compared to Sanchez’s $3.5 million, gained the endorsement of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California and the support of the majority of Democrats in the California legislature.
While Harris has been characterized as the more progressive candidate, Sanchez’s campaign has signaled that it will try to persuade California voters that her comparatively moderate policies would be more effective.
“If you’re Loretta Sanchez, you have to be different from Harris,” Schnur added. “You can’t be more progressive than her or more of a woman than her, but you can be more centrist and be Latina.”
Following her victory in the open primary, Harris told her supporters to be prepared for a divisive general election campaign.
“The stakes are high,” Harris said, according to KABC. “The eyes of the country are on us, and I know we are prepared to do ourselves proud and our state and our fellow Californians proud.”
Sanchez faces an uphill battle in toppling Harris. Having already served 10 terms in the California legislature, she signaled that she would be emphasizing her record during the campaign.
“Hopefully we’ll see what Miss Harris stands for, I haven’t really gotten an indication of that yet,” Sanchez said. “I know where I stand on issues, I’ve got 20 years of votes.”