California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for the state's U.S. Senate seat that'll be open when Barbara Boxer retires. Loretta Sanchez is leaning toward a run. I'm dumbfounded by those acting as if Harris has Top Two sewn up. Harris is a strong candidate but she's no Dianne Feinstein. I think they're fooled by her base of progressive support and national Democrats liking her. She doesn't have approval ratings as high as Treasurer John Chiang and didn't equal his vote total.
California is a big state and hard to campaign in. The more crowded the field gets the tougher it gets for Harris. In a one-on-one battle against a Democrat in a Democratic primary, she probably wins against most anyone. But Top Two includes NPP voters and even some Republican ones that might cross over. A large field with candidates who have various strengths hurt her. If Tom Steyer gets in, he'll siphon away some liberal, especially among environmentalists, and Silicon Valley votes from Harris. That's a candidate who eats into her strength. How much is unknown, but in a big field you can't afford to lose any core voters.
Then there are Harris' weaknesses. She's a powerhouse in the Bay area, but there are more voters in Southern California. And voters around here want to see someone from here in office. There hasn't been a Southern Californian for over 20 years. A moderate Democrat, perhaps from the Central Valley, could siphon off votes. Republican Ashley Swearingen won Central Valley conservadem voters who voted for Jerry Brown in her Controller's race.
Harris is Black, but that doesn't help her with Hispanics. Hispanics are becoming a bigger share of the electorate, especially among Democrats. They'll want a prominent one in the field and the three considering a run, Antonio Villaraigosa, Xavier Becerra, and Sanchez, are all from Southern California.
Some candidates might not be able to top 15-20%, but that might be enough to get the candidate in top two. Look at CA-33. It was an open seat with a lot of progressives north of the airport and working class Democrats south of it. Democrats got 66.7% of the vote in the primary. Democrats haven't gotten more than 56.6% in a statewide race in 2012 or 2014. And that was in races with one well known Democratic incumbent against nobody Republicans. The open seats had Democrats getting 48.4% and 51.6%. So put the Democrats in a 48%-56% range.
Here's the Democratic breakdown:
Ted Lieu 18.8%
Wendy Greuel 16.6%
Maianne Williamson 13.2%
Matt Miller 12.0%
Other Democrats 6.1%
Here's CA-31, a district Democrats got 53.1%:
Pete Aguilar 17.4%
Eloise Reyes 15.9%
Joe Baca 11.2%
Danny Tillman 8.7%
People want to say with certainty who'll win but it's wide open right now.