Harris, Sanchez campaign in SoCal for Senate seat

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Kamala Harris is leading fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez in the campaign for California's first open U.S. Senate seat in 24 years. (KABC)

The race for a U.S. Senate seat in California has been a relatively low-key one, even though it holds the distinctions of being the first open seat in the state in 24 years - and the first time two Democrats have faced each other in the general election.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats, are facing off against each other because of a change in election law that created a runoff between the top two vote-getters regardless of party.

The two were both campaigning in Southern California this week.

Harris met with faith leaders from the area.

"We still see there are a large number of people who are unaware that there's a race or they're just feeling put off by the kind of rhetoric that's occurring. So part of our mission is just to remind people that their vote matters," Harris said.

Sanchez attacked Harris on her role as attorney general, saying she hasn't done enough to help people who claimed they were victimized by Herbalife's business practices.

"For the past five years, the attorney general of California has failed to act on over 800 heart-wrenching complaints of a company preying on the Latino community," Sanchez said.

Harris topped the vote in the primary by a wide margin and continues to lead in polls.

An exclusive Eyewitness News / Southern California News Group poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows Harris leading Sanchez 44 percent to 27 percent, with 29 percent of voters still undecided.

Political expert Raphe Sonenshein said the high number of undecideds is because of the unprecedented attention on the top of the ticket.

"One reason is the incredible power of the presidential race - which has become one of the most absorbing races of all time in American politics - has kind of sucked up the oxygen in the room, completely," said Sonenshein, with the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A.

Northern California - where Harris' support is strongest - typically votes in higher numbers than Southern California, where Sanchez is based, Sonenshein said. But the regions are closer in a presidential election year when turnout overall is boosted. Sanchez is trying to make up ground by reaching out to more conservative voters as well as Latinos in Southern California.

The race is also seeing a relatively low amount of spending and fundraising for a California Senate race. As of June 30, the two candidates combined had raised $15 million.

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