Loretta Sanchez+Kamala Harris

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, left, and California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. (Associated Press)

By Michael Finnegan
September 14, 2015

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris is holding her lead in the race to succeed Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate, but strong support among Latinos has enabled Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County to establish herself as a serious rival, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The survey found Harris leading Sanchez, a fellow Democrat, 26% to 17% among registered voters, followed by former state Republican chairman Tom Del Beccaro, with 10%, and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), with 9%.

Former state Republican Party leader George “Duf” Sundheim entered the race last week, too late for inclusion in the poll.

The primary election is in June, and it is far from settled: More than a third of voters were undecided, and more candidates could still emerge.

Regardless of party, the contestants who finish first and second will advance to a November 2016 runoff.

“Unless the Republicans coalesce behind one single candidate, we will probably end up seeing a runoff between two Democrats,” said poll director Dan Schnur, who leads USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

Sundheim’s arrival could further fracture the Republican vote and deepen the party’s disadvantage in a state dominated by Democrats.

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