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Loretta Sanchez May Announce California Senate Bid

Sanchez is running for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 8 p.m. | Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., may announce a bid for Senate in the Golden State Thursday, which would set up a primary in the open-seat race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.  

Citing an email intended for Sanchez supporters, sources told CQ Roll Call the congresswoman would make her announcement Thursday morning. That's one day before Democratic operatives and activists gather in Anaheim, located in her district, for the annual California Democratic Party Convention. The plan described in the email was for Sanchez to stand beside her "husband, family and friends," at the Santa Ana train station.  

But a source with knowledge of the congresswoman's plans told CQ Roll Call after this post was published that the message was a "draft internal email," and said of Sanchez, "She has not yet decided if she is going to run."  

Sanchez would be only the second top-tier Democratic candidate to enter the race, rated a Safe Democratic contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. She would join Democrat Kamala Harris, the state's attorney general, in the field.  

Sanchez's announcement would come after months of toying with a possible bid.  

Even though her position as a House member gave her the ability to raise money for other federal contests, she is far behind Harris on that front. Sanchez raised just $213,000 in the first three months of 2015 — a paltry sum for any incumbent, let alone one mulling a Senate bid. The congresswoman ended March with $540,000 in cash on hand.  

Harris, who entered the race shortly after Boxer's retirement, raised $2.5 million during the same time period. She ended March with $2.2 million in the bank. Harris also has shored up institutional support, including the endorsement of EMILY's List — a group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights. The EMILY's List's endorsement comes with a national fundraising network, as well as possible independent expenditures.  

California is one of the most expensive states in the country to run a campaign. It is anchored by the Los Angeles and San Francisco media markets — both of which fall in the top 10 most expensive television markets in the country. Democratic operatives project the race will cost upward of $100 million.  

California's size also makes a statewide bid challenging for a House member such as Sanchez. Each member of the delegation represents less than 2 percent of the state's population — the smallest of all 50 states — giving House incumbents a negligible base of support.  

Harris, on the other hand, has run statewide before — making her familiar to a larger swath of the electorate.  

Sanchez could also have competition from another Southern California Hispanic Democrat. Rep. Xavier Becerra, currently the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, is also mulling a bid . Some California Democrats have been searching for a Hispanic Democrat, especially one from Southern California, since former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa passed on the contest earlier this year. Sanchez could fit that mold.  

She represents a large chunk of Orange County, and her sister, fellow California Democratic Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, is chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  

In California, the two highest primary vote recipients — regardless of party — advance to the general election. With California being a strong Democratic state (President Barack Obama won it in 2012 with 60 percent), it is possible two Democrats could advance, dragging the race out until November 2016.  

Sanchez would have to give up her House seat to run for Senate, opening up the 46th District for the first time in decades.  

Democratic operatives mention three possible Democratic contenders for the seat:

  • Former state Assemblyman Lou Correa, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014.
  • Former state Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who lost a state Senate contest in 2014.
  • Santa Ana City Council member Michele Martinez.

The Orange County-based 46th District is safe Democratic territory. Obama carried it with 61 percent in 2012.  

Ed. note: This post was updated after a source described Sanchez as not having made a final decision.    

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