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U.S. Senate candidates Harris, Sanchez debate at Cal State

LOS ANGELES — The two candidates competing to replace longtime U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer said they believe more transparency is needed in law enforcement in light of the recent shootings of African-American men by police officers across the country and in the Golden State.

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said she supports adopting technology such as body cameras that allow law enforcement to be transparent.

“There is a need for transparency if we are going to have trust,” she said. “I run the California Department of Justice, and we possess an extraordinary amount of criminal justice and law enforcement data. I decided to bust open the data, understanding there is a crisis of confidence between law enforcement and the communities we protect. There is a need to speak truth.”

Rep. Loretta Sanchez said trust in the police has declined in some communities. The Orange County politician said in an effort to create a positive relationship between members of her community and police, she and her husband had members of the Santa Ana Police Department attend a late September service at their church, which is predominately African-American.

“Then we broke bread,” she said. “Because to know thy neighbor is to love thy neighbor.”

Both Democrats were responding to a question asked by a moderator during a Oct. 5 debate at Cal State Los Angeles. The hour-long event was the only opportunity voters will have to see Harris and Sanchez square off before election day Nov. 8.

Aside from the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the competition between Harris, 51, and Sanchez, 56, to replace the retiring Boxer is the top clash for office Californians will cast a vote for on Nov. 8.

The pursuit of California’s junior U.S. Senate seat pits Democrat against Democrat because the state’s new open-primary system allows the top vote-getters from the primary election, regardless of party, to advance to the general election.

Sanchez said voters should elect her to fill Boxer’s role in Washington D.C. because she has the legislative experience. She has represented the state’s 46th Congressional District, which sits in Orange County since 2013. She represented the same district from 1997 to 2003, and then represented the 47th Congressional District.

“I have cast the tough votes on behalf of Californians,” Sanchez said. “No on the Iraq War. No on the Patriot Act. No on the Wall Street bailout that took away our homes. I’m the only one that has military and national security experience. I am a voting member of the NATO Parliament I have been to Iraq, Afghanistan and the horn of Africa. I know what it takes to defend this country.”

Harris has been California attorney general since 2010. She is California’s first African-American and first Asian-American attorney general. She was San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 until she became the state’s top cop.

Harris said California deserves and needs bold national leadership.

“One indication of the ability to be bold and to be a national leader is a track record of getting things done,” she said. “I have a track record of fighting for the homeowners of California, fighting for students, fighting for criminal justice reform, fighting for immigrants.”

Whoever is elected to replace Boxer, in the Senate since 1993, will have a six-year term and work with California senior U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. In their new role, either Harris or Sanchez will be responsible for proposing and voting on new national laws and casting votes to confirm federal judges, U.S. Supreme Court justices and many high-level presidential appointments to civilian and military positions.

Harris is ahead in polls by an average of 13 percent and has received endorsements from Boxer, Feinstein, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Harris and Sanchez touched on a bevy of topics during the debate including water policy, abortion, terrorism, immigration, California’s prison system, and Russia.

They didn’t agree on a few subjects.

Harris accused Sanchez of using language that helps ISIS — a terrorist group that has declared war on the U.S. — recruit members.

“By calling 20 percent of Muslims inclined to committing acts of terrorism,” Harris said of Sanchez, “that is playing in the hands of ISIS and all they are trying to do to recruit young Muslim men throughout our country and around the world suggesting the United States should be an enemy.”

Sanchez said the words she said after last year’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino were misconstrued.

“That is what Mrs. Harris and all of her cronies have been doing,” Sanchez said.

Harris brought up Sanchez’s spotty attendance record in Congress several times, while Sanchez said her opponent does not have a plan for how to improve California’s water situation and said Harris has taken donations from Donald Trump.

Both candidates expressed support for a comprehensive overhaul of federal immigration policies, an active effort in the war on terrorism and protecting abortion rights.

An issue attached to Proposition 64 — the measure that if approved by voters on election day would legalize the recreational use of marijuana – was also discussed. Both candidates said marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I drug, instead of a Schedule II, meaning less criminal penalties can be associated with the drug.

Sanchez said she has been fighting to get marijuana off Schedule I during her time in Congress. She said she supported the closing of several illegal weed dispensaries in the Orange County, which helped clear the way for legitimate medical marijuana businesses.

Harris said far too many black and Latino men have been incarcerated for possessing marijuana.

“We need to change it on the schedule and end the mass incarceration of young people for possessing a small amount of the least dangerous drug,” she said.


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