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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California Dems Give Nod to Harris for U.S. Senate

SAN JOSE (CN) - Vice President Joe Biden energized the California Democratic Party Convention in San Jose, and state Attorney General Kamala Harris easily won the party's endorsement in the U.S. Senate seat race against Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

The three-day convention, which featured a slew of speeches by Democratic officeholders on the local, state and national level, also featured contentious battles between candidates for the much-coveted party endorsements.

Biden dedicated his keynote speech Saturday to a vigorous defense of the Obama administration's 8-year stint while conceding that much work remained to restore health and prosperity to the American middle class.

"Although we ran in 2008 to lift up America, it was clear our first job was to save America," Biden said, referring to the state of the economy when Obama took office.

Biden touted the accomplishments of the American Recovery Act, the rescuing of the automobile industry, the Affordable Care Act and slashing the unemployment rate, creating millions of jobs and leading to a nearly 10,000-point gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

But he conceded there was much work to be done to ensure the economic recovery also benefits American workers.

"We must restore the vitality and vigor of the middle class," Biden said. "We said it was a defining issue of our time and it still is. We have an opportunity to finish that job and generate a genuine resurgence of the middle class."

Wealth inequality was a major topic for all convention speakers.

Harris, battling Sanchez in the hotly contested race to replace Barbara Boxer at the U.S. Senate, told those assembled that "for far too many people, liberty and justice for all is a promise we have yet to keep."

The Golden State's top cop stuck to asserting Democratic values, striking a thematic note about how the Republican promise to return America to greatness is actually a promise to restore past injustices that afflicted minorities, gays and lesbians, environmentalists, refugees, immigrants and the poor.

"They say they will make America great again," Harris said. "In my mind this statement begs an obvious question - again for whom?"

Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, spent her time at the dais mounting a sharp defense of her record in Congress, touting her toughness, her ability to cast tough votes against the majority exemplified by her vote against the invasion of Iraq and her experience.

"While other candidates talk about boldly changing Washington, I have done it for 20 years," she said.

Ultimately, Harris won the California Democratic Party endorsement in overwhelming fashion on Saturday night, earning 78 percent of delegate votes. Sanchez mustered 19 percent, with the remainder electing to vote for no endorsement.

The endorsement casts Harris as the clear favorite to replace Boxer.

Endorsements were doled out in a number of other races, including one to Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who is facing a House Ethics Committee review over allegations he and key members of his staff used taxpayer money to bolster his 2014 reelection campaign.

Emilio Huerta, son of United Farm Workers organizer Dolores Huerta, lost out on an endorsement bid to Daniel Parra for the 21st Congressional District race in the southern Central Valley.

Other speakers included Boxer, who thanked her supporters for electing her to four terms in the U.S. Senate; Rep. Nancy Pelosi; Assembly Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego; state Senate President pro tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; LA Mayor Eric Garcetti; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo; Democratic Donor Tom Steyer; and state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who many believe has the inside track to replace Harris as Attorney General.

The speakers discussed wealth inequality, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, equal pay for women in the workplace, campaign finance and many of the speakers talked vociferously about the need to take on the National Rifle Association and pass meaningful gun-control laws.

There was also no shortage of Republican bashing. Each time someone mentioned the name Donald Trump, a chorus of boos descended.

Biden criticized Republicans' ideological adherence to trickle-down economics, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the attempt to chip away at social programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, saying these policies caused the Great Recession.

"The Republicans haven't changed at all, they've just gotten meaner," Biden said.

Harris also lashed out against the rhetoric deployed by the right.

"Friends, we have never seen a national election like the one we have this year," Harris said. "Just look at the politics of poison coursing through the bloodstream in the race for the Republican nomination. That race is a race to the bottom."

However, Biden cautioned against the recent trend of making politics overly personal and pleaded with voters and fellow politicians to remember the values of compromise.

"America can't take this much longer," he said. "We can only survive by consensus."

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