Kamala Harris

Attorney General Kamala Harris is likely to face challenges from other Democrats coveting Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat.

By Matier & Ross
Monday, January 19, 2015

Having jumped into the U.S. Senate race “feet first,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris will be hitting the phones to score as much money and as many endorsements possible — all in the hope of keeping rival Democrats from jumping in as well.

Topping the list of those she hopes to stop is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — but ultimately, she’s most worried about billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer.

It’s not that Harris’ managers think Villaraigosa could beat her in the primary. But if a big name like Villaraigosa or Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana — who’s well known in Southern California — gets into the race, it could make it more inviting for Steyer to join the fray.

Steyer might not want to be the lone candidate trying to block the path to Washington of a charismatic woman of color. But if it’s already a crowded field, that’s a different story.

And a Steyer candidacy means trouble for Harris, because he could turn a low-cost primary into a full-blown, $30 million-per-candidate donnybrook.

So last week, the Harris camp began shopping around a poll taken in December showing her with 27 percent of vote out of the gate, compared with single digits for several other possible Democratic candidates, including Sanchez and Steyer.

Numbers like that would give pause to candidates not named Kamala Harris, but Steyer has been laying tracks for a political run for years. Most recently, his NextGen Climate political action committee funneled $73 million into campaigns nationwide in an ill-fated effort to make Washington more eco-friendly.

And as his own pollsters told him in a recent memo, if no big Republican gets in the top-two primary, “there is a clear opportunity” for two Democrats to qualify for the November general election.

And that could spell real trouble for Harris.

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