“I am proud to endorse Kamala Harris for United States Senate because I’ve seen her work,” Obama said in a statement, in which he praised Harris’s work in negotiating a larger settlement for California homeowners affected by the foreclosure crisis and being “a leading voice for criminal justice reform, challenging old dogma and insisting we be ‘smart on crime’ by ending mass incarceration.”
Biden, in his statement, said he got to know Harris through her work with his late son, Beau Biden, a former attorney general of Delaware. “I saw them take on big banks, lift up the voices of working people, and protect women and children from abuse and violence. Beau always supported her, and I’m proud to support her candidacy for the United States Senate,” he said.
Harris said that she is “honored to receive the support of the President and Vice President, two leaders who have worked tirelessly to improve life for our families and get results for all people. They are incredible leaders for our nation, and I look forward to our continued work together in the months and years ahead.”
Late Tuesday Sanchez pushed back hard, issuing a lengthy statement critical of the endorsement and questioning Harris’s effectiveness as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
“I am disappointed that President Obama chose to endorse in an historic Senate race between two Democrats. I would think the Leader of the Democratic Party would be focused on defeating Donald Trump and supporting Democratic Senate candidates against Republicans,” Sanchez said in the statement.
California’s election rules call for the top-two winners of the primary to advance to the general election, even if they are members of the same party. Although Sanchez easily beat several Republican candidates in the June 7 primary, the Orange County congresswoman has struggled to compete with Harris, who was the favorite to win the seat when she announced her candidacy more than 18 months ago.
Even during the primary, Harris had been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, Emily’s List, several large labor unions and environmental groups. She also has the backing of Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
Sanchez, sounding the theme that fueled the campaigns of outsiders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican nominee Donald Trump, blasted the party’s “establishment” for backing her opponent.
“I believe that California voters are deeply concerned about the entrenched political establishment which has failed to work for them. Yet, it has been clear for some time that the same political establishment would rather have a coronation instead of an election for California’s next U.S. Senator,” Sanchez said in her statement.
She criticized Harris, saying, “My opponent’s record is troubling.” She suggested that Harris has overstated the effectiveness of her signature achievement, negotiating a larger settlement for California homeowners affected by the the mortgage meltdown, which also was cited by Obama and Biden in their endorsements.
Sanchez said that “just a small fraction of people got any meaningful relief, and tens of thousands of California families lost their homes. Her empty promises far exceeded actual help for our homeowners.”
Juan Rodriguez, Harris’s campaign manager, responded in a statement: “It’s disappointing to see Congresswoman Sanchez attack President Obama, claim he has failed to work hard and win results for our families, and question his commitment to defeating Donald Trump. That’s not the perspective Californians want from their next U.S. Senator.”
Polls have consistently shown Harris leading, including a Field poll released earlier this month that put her 15 points ahead of Sanchez, 39 percent to 24 percent. The attorney general’s campaign also touted that it has raised $2.8 million over the last three months and had $2.7 million in the bank. Sanchez’s campaign, according to news reports, has $1.1 million on hand.
Some Sanchez supporters have urged Democratic leaders and organizations to stay out of the race, since the party will retain the seat regardless of which woman wins. Polls have shown that Latinos are the only group with whom Sanchez has a sizable lead, and her campaign is hoping for a surge among Hispanic voters in the general election. They also hope that Republicans will be attracted to Sanchez, who was first elected to Congress 20 years ago, describes herself as a moderate Democrat, and talks up her longtime membership on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.
Latino political leaders are hopeful that Sanchez, 56, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, could be one of the first Hispanic women elected to the Senate. Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto also is on the general election ballot in Nevada to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Harris, 51, whose mother was born in India and whose father was born in Jamaica, would become the only African American woman in the Senate if she wins the seat.