By Michael Finnegan and Peter Jamison
May 16, 2015

The contours of California’s U.S. Senate race sharpened Saturday, with Kamala Harris trying to keep stride as the leading contender while upstart Loretta Sanchez sought to knock her off balance.

Their clashing ambitions dominated an Anaheim gathering of several thousand Democrats pondering who was best suited to capture the Senate seat that Barbara Boxer has occupied for more than 22 years.

Harris, the state attorney general, outlined a broad federal agenda for the first time since entering the race in January. Highlights included a “full pathway to citizenship” for immigrants in the country illegally, a rise in the minimum wage and an end to the federal ban on medical marijuana.

Speaking two days after Sanchez announced she was running, Harris referred only obliquely to the Orange County congresswoman, implying that her rival’s 18 years in the House of Representatives should be no source of pride.

“I believe we can disrupt the dysfunction in D.C.,” Harris told the convention delegates in a speech punctuated by tributes to such civil rights leaders as United Farm Workers icon Cesar Chavez and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

California Senate candidates have until next March to decide whether to run in the June 2016 primary, so the Democratic field could expand.

Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, another possible contender who was working the convention, said he expects to decide by August whether to get in.

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