Two Democrats will battle each other to become California’s next United States senator, after winning the top two spots in an open primary on Tuesday.
The intraparty fight between Kamala Harris, the state’s attorney general, and Loretta Sanchez, a congresswoman from Orange County, will be the first to shut out Republicans since California approved nonpartisan primaries in 2010.
Ms. Harris and Ms. Sanchez defeated a crowded field that included two former chairmen of the State Republican Party. Ms. Harris, who has received the official backing of the State Democratic Party, captured 40% of the vote, and Ms. Sanchez 17% , with 55% of the precincts reporting.
The campaign to replace Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who was first elected in 1992, is the first for an open Senate seat in California in more than a generation.
In a brief speech to a crowd of her supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday night, Ms. Harris said she was confident that she was attracting “folks of all stripes” across the state.
“Our unity is our strength and our diversity is our power,” said Ms. Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. She added that the election in the fall would “be about reminding people that we reject those who talk about ‘us versus them.’ We reject those people who speak this anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
So far, Ms. Harris has largely shied away from directly engaging Ms. Sanchez, but the fall election could force the candidates to show how they differ on policy.
In public appearances and campaign advertisements, Ms. Harris has presented herself as “smart on crime” and has said she would work to overhaul the country’s criminal justice laws.
Ms. Sanchez has relied on her experience as a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, saying she best understands how to get things done in Washington.
No matter who wins in the fall, California voters will make history: electing either the Senate’s first Latina or its first Black female senator since Carol Moseley Braun, an Illinois Democrat who served from 1993 to 1999.