Newsletter: Essential Politics: After debate clash, Kamala Harris locks in backing from Boxer, Feinstein


Either Loretta Sanchez or Kamala Harris will be California’s next U.S. senator, and the Democrats had just 60 minutes to introduce themselves to voters, to draw contrasts where there are few and to knock her rival while still appearing steady.

I’m Christina Bellantoni, and this is Essential Politics.

For the record:

4:07 p.m. June 18, 2024An item in this newsletter misquoted Gov. Jerry Brown. At the 10th anniversary celebration for a landmark climate law, he said the issue of climate change is about “human existence,” not “human resistance.”

The Senate hopefuls sparred over national security, policing issues, guns and even Trump University during the rapid-fire forum on Wednesday night, but what drew perhaps the most attention was a light moment at the close of the evening.


When Sanchez ran a little long in her closing remarks, the moderator cut her off. When he did, Sanchez struck a pose that resembled “dabbing,” a dance move that has been said to resemble sneezing. Harris’ reaction? She threw shade, laughed and pointed out “there’s a clear difference between the candidates in this race.” Christine Mai-Duc breaks it down in a don’t-miss post.

Regardless of how the voters who weren’t watching MLB playoffs might have viewed Sanchez and Harris on Wednesday, it’s the front-runner who is attempting to deliver the establishment blow Thursday morning.

Harris announced she has secured high-profile endorsements from both of California’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and the retiring Barbara Boxer. Phil Willon has the story.

During the debate, Sanchez referenced Harris “cronies” and suggested her rival is part of the establishment thanks to her endorsements from the state party, President Obama, Vice President Biden and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The congresswoman also implied that she is a player in Washington’s power circles and had personally influenced Obama on major issues including marijuana and immigration. Harris “doesn’t understand the Congress at all,” Sanchez complained, when Harris said Sanchez’s only law was the naming of a post office. (Sarah Wire has that backstory.)

Harris’ biggest critique of her rival was that Sanchez had missed votes and congressional hearings, especially over the last year. John Myers detailed what happened, and if it matters with just over one month until the election.

We covered the debate live, and you can watch it in full here.

We’re closely following the Senate race and California’s competitive political contests on our Essential Politics news feed — don’t miss a moment.


Donald Trump said running mate Mike Pence’s strong performance in the vice presidential debate proves his own leadership skills, reports Seema Mehta in Henderson, Nev.


Hillary Clinton said at a fundraiser in Washington that the debate proved Trump is “indefensible” as a candidate.

Television statistics revealed the Pence-Tim Kaine match-up had the smallest audience for a vice presidential debate since 2000, with 37 million people watching.

Don’t miss our annotated transcript of Tuesday evening’s key exchanges, and join us Sunday night for the next presidential debate.


Polling finds Trump has a lopsided edge over Clinton among male voters, while Clinton benefits from the gender gap cutting in the other direction. The difference between men and women during this election is one of three major divides in the electorate. The others are race and education.

David Lauter explains that, along with what’s changed in our daily Los Angeles Times/USC Dornsife Daybreak tracking poll.


Get the latest from the campaign trail on Trail Guide and follow @latimespolitics. Check our daily USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times tracking poll at the top of the politics page.


Clinton supporters who might not have snagged a $33,400 ticket to the Elton John fundraiser this month shouldn’t fret — there are more opportunities to give the Democratic ticket cash.

A newly added “martinis and music” fundraiser is slated for Monday night at the Fonda Theatre Rooftop Deck. Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell will offer “words of wisdom,” and theater owner Leslie Blumberg will be there so donors can “speak your mind,” according to an invitation obtained by The Times.

Tickets start at $100 and go up to $5,000. The most generous donors get a backstage tour of the Fonda “where the Rolling Stones hang out,” champagne, canapes and a photo with O’Farrell.

“Donate a lot or a little. But a lot would be nice. A lot is at stake!” reads the solicitation to donors.


On Tuesday, Madeleine Albright will appear at a lunchtime fundraiser in Los Angeles ranging in price from $500 to $2,700.

On Oct. 20, Chelsea Clinton will appear at a “family celebration” at the Los Angeles home of Andrea and David Nevins, an event also hosted by Stacy Twilley, Michael Kong, and Elsa and Jarron Collins. Tickets start at $250. Kristen Bell is the special guest, and there is an additional reception for families who donate or raise $10,000 hosted at the Twilley/Kong home.


Just over a month is left before the November election, and California voters are starting to see the proof in their mailboxes, hanging on their doorknobs and each time they turn on a computer or TV.

Have you received a barrage of campaign mailers this election season? Are you bombarded with information about local races and propositions? We want to hear from you.

Send images of campaign mailers and door-hangers, mp3 recordings of robo calls or links to web ads to Include your name, city, state and age, and tell us about the material you’re sharing.


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-- 18 million and counting: California’s voter registration hit a new record in a state report released on Wednesday. In fact, there are now more registered voters in the Golden State than there are people in 46 states.

-- Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reflected on climate policy at a reception Wednesday to celebrate the state’s landmark climate laws. “This is not about the Republican Party or the Democratic Party,” Brown said. “This is about human resistance. It’s about survival.”

-- Hip-hop artist and Virgin founder Richard Branson are supporting California’s effort to end the death penalty.

-- Cathleen Decker examines the Asian American vote and what it might mean if the group spurns Trump next month.

-- While campaigning in Ohio, Bill Clinton called Pence’s remarks about his foundation a “cheap and unfair shot.”


-- Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld told the Boston Globe he’ll devote the rest of the campaign to attacking Trump, not Clinton.

-- Hollywood is getting creative with its political endorsements.

-- What did Clinton think of the “SNL” sketch on the debate and Kate McKinnon’s performance? “I wish I could do the jumps, the splits, the somersault.”

-- Who will win the November election? Give our Electoral College map a spin.


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