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Obama, Biden endorse Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate

Obama, Biden endorse Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate
President Barack Obama walks with California Attorney General Kamala Harris, center, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco in 2012. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced they are backing state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, a longtime political ally of the president, in California's historic Democrat-on-Democrat U.S. Senate race.

The president praised Harris as a "lifelong courtroom prosecutor" who fought international gangs, oil companies and the big banks responsible for the mortgage crisis.

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"Kamala Harris fights for us. That's why I'm so proud to endorse her for United States senator," the president said in a statement released by the Harris campaign and Democratic National Committee. "And if you send her to the Senate, she'll be a fearless fighter for the people of California — all the people of California — every single day."

For Harris' rival, Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the endorsements are a stinging rebuke and add another political obstacle to the many she must overcome by the November election.

The president's nod caps a string of major endorsements for Harris, the candidate of choice among the Democratic Party's power barons and some of the left's most influential interest groups. It also sends a clear signal to Democratic donors, many of whom have stayed on the sidelines this election.

Harris already has won the support of Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a favorite of the left.

Harris said she was honored to receive the support of the president and vice president, calling them "incredible leaders for our nation."

Harris has more than a 3-to-1 edge over Sanchez in fundraising and easily topped a crowded field of Senate candidates in the June primary. The attorney general also held a 15-percentage-point lead over Sanchez in the latest Field poll.

The two Democrats will face off in the November election, setting the stage for the highest profile contest between two members of the same party since California adopted a top-two primary election system.

Harris' ties to Obama and his administration stretch back more than a decade, even before he burst onto the national political scene. While she was still the San Francisco district attorney, Harris supported and raised money for Obama when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. She later served as the California co-chair of his upstart 2008 presidential campaign.

Obama reciprocated by helping to launch Harris into the national spotlight when he gave her a speaking role at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina.

The next year, the president landed in hot water when he called Harris the "best-looking attorney general" in the country during a Democratic fundraiser in the Bay Area.

The president called Harris the next day to apologize for the remark and the distraction it caused.

Harris and Biden have largely operated in separate political spheres, with Harris spending her career in local and state office in California and Biden reigning as a formidable Democratic heavyweight in Washington.

Still, Harris was able to talk Biden into delivering the keynote speech at the California Democratic Party's convention in San Jose in February,

Harris also worked extensively with Biden's son, Beau Biden, when he served as Delaware's attorney general.  Beau Biden died at 46 in May 2015 after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Harris attended his memorial service.

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"Beau always supported her, and I'm proud to support her candidacy for the United States Senate," Biden said in a statement.

When news leaked about Biden's endorsement decision this month, Sanchez supporters expressed dismay that the administration would attempt to tip the scales in this intra-party contest.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) said Sanchez has been a strong supporter of the president, adding that it would be disappointing to see that loyalty disregarded.

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