In California, Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez are seeking to replace retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, raising the possibility of a runoff in November and testing the influence of minority voters along the way. Last year, Boxer announced she wasn’t going to run for reelection, opening up the Senate seat she’s occupied since 1992 and setting off a hotly contested race to take it. Harris, the state’s attorney general, and Sanchez, who’s served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 terms, are leading a pack of Republicans also vying for the seat. Even though Harris and Sanchez are in the same party, both could continue to the November election. Since 2012, California’s primary system has allowed the top two vote-getters to compete in the general, regardless of party affiliation.
Tuesday’s primary will likely pave the way for a contest between two female, minority candidates in the fall. Sanchez and Harris are both the children of immigrants and have touted their roots on the campaign trail. Either woman would make history if she were elected in November: Harris as the first black woman to win a Senate seat since Carol Moseley Braun, and Sanchez as the first Latina elected to the chamber. Tuesday’s race also provides a glimpse of a changing electorate as one of the largest Latino populations in the country heads to the polls.