Central Valley has never been a happy hunting ground for liberal democrats. Many past governors and senators with enviable electoral records have failed to ignite passion and support and have been handed down humbling defeats. California Attorney General Kamala Harris faces a daunting challenge against her own party colleague- Democrat cum Orange County Representative Loretta Sanchez when they go head to head for a seat in the U.S. Senate from the Central Valley in California to be decide on November 8th.
Harris leads in opinion polls
Although Harris has work cut out for her, a lead in the opinion polls could see her get elevated to the position of a Senator soon as many of the electorates have already cast their ballots. A poll had shown Harris with a comfortable 2-1 margin lead over Sanchez although there are quite a few undecided voters and crossover voters (disgruntled Republicans) sitting on the fences who could throw a last minute surprise.
Sanchez seems to have found greater resonance with Latino voters who have a considerable presence in the region and she has also visited farmers, ranchers and those with blue collar jobs repeatedly leading up to the elections to convince them of her unwavering support. Being a Hispanic and a centrist, Loretta Sanchez may find favor with those from Kern, Fresno and other areas of the Central Valley, where farming holds sway. Kamala Harris was initially seen as a Bay Area progressive and elitist with little understanding of the local issues like water and irrigation problems and also transportation and hence a misfit. But, off late she seems to have raced ahead.
Contentious issues on which the competitors agree or differ
One factor that seems to have turned the wind in Harris’s favor is the rise in the crime rate in the region and her designation as “Attorney General” vis-à-vis Sanchez’s “U.S. Congresswoman”, meaning many in the area think that her background could mean she will have a better answer to tackling the local crimes. Immigration policy, an important issue in the Central Valley because of the immigrants often find work on the lucrative farmlands of the region has been supported by both the contestants. They also support the high-speed rail project for the state that would pass through the Central Valley and create more jobs.
However, on the issue of water, there is a differing of opinion. While Sanchez says she wants the dam projects on San Joaquin and Sacramento to come up, Harris has feigned ignorance and she is also not willing to put greater priority to the region’s water crisis over amendment of the endangered species laws. However, they both want construction of twin underground tunnel for transportation of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region. This would help conservation of water in a region which is often affected by drought.
The finish to the race could be closer than many believe and the election result would put to rest who becomes the new senator from the state.