Candidates for US Senate meet for first debate of race

STOCKTON — With only six weeks remaining until primary election day, the five candidates in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer are vying for voters to pay them some attention.

They’ll meet onstage for the first time Monday night in a live televised debate hosted by the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

The first open Senate seat in decades was expected to draw outsize attention and a strong field of candidates but so far has drawn mostly yawns from voters and a low-profile campaign. Polls show about half of likely voters remain unengaged in the race and undecided about whom to support.

A Field Poll earlier this month found Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris in the lead with 27 percent of likely voters. The rest of the candidates are trying for second place in California’s top-two primary June 7.

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a firebrand Democratic congresswoman from conservative Orange County and the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, came second with 14 percent among likely voters.

Physicist and entrepreneur Ron Unz and two former state GOP chairmen, Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, were all within the margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points in the poll. All are hoping for a breakthrough moment moment to help them attract voters Monday.

Unz, who only entered the race in mid-April, is best known for backing a 1998 initiative to end bilingual education in California, while the moderate Sundheim is campaigning as the anti-Donald Trump candidate in blue California, pledging a tone of compromise and adaptability.

Still, Democrats are strongly favored to retain the seat when the race is decided in November. The party controls every statewide office and holds a 2.7-million edge in voter registration, but Republicans hope to save face by not being edged out early.

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