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Historic Senate Debate Hosted at Cal State LA (yes, Sanchez dabbed)

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Historic Senate Debate Hosted at Cal State LA (yes, Sanchez dabbed)

Photo by Ani Nalbandian

Photo by Ani Nalbandian

Photo by Ani Nalbandian

Photo by Ani Nalbandian

Ani Nalbandian, Staff Reporter

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California’s race to replace the first open Senate seat in 24 years featured its first and only debate on Wednesday at Cal State LA in the University-Student Union Theater. Excited students, media and political aides watched as the hour-long debate unfolded into policy discussions and an eventual ‘dab’ by Congresswoman (D) Loretta Sanchez.

A very prompt moderator, KABC-TV’s Marc Brown did not allow candidates to speak over their allotted time and continuously had to interrupt and cut off an intense Sanchez, to which she once replied “Try.”

The two Democratic nominees for Senate, Kamala Harris and Sanchez, did their best to distinguish themselves from one another. Back in 2010, California signed off on proposition 14 which established a “jungle primary,” essentially eliminating the two party systems. This means that Californians were able to vote for any candidate in the June primaries and the top two candidates, regardless of political parties, would run in the general election.

In this year’s June primaries, State Attorney General Kamala Harris received 40 percent of the total vote. While Congresswoman Sanchez advanced to November with 18 percent of the vote, coming in at nearly double the most favored Republican candidates. If Sanchez wins, she would be first Hispanic Senator in history, while if Harris wins, she would be the first black woman to be in Senate since 1999.

The debate covered a variety of topics; immigration reform, the state drought, prison reform, and abortion rights, to name a few. They agreed that pathways to citizenship had to be established, that non-violent criminals had to be charged more leniently, and that every woman deserved the right to choose her own fate and called for increases in spending for abortion services.

Harris and Sanchez disagreed on Proposition 57, which will be up for vote in November. The proposition, called the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act, would make non-violent offenders eligible for early parole, with some exceptions for sex-related offenses. The reason this proposition is important is because the state prisons are at capacity and the necessary relief should be in the form of people who have little to no reason for being in prison.  

Sanchez explained her position; “If you give guns to gangs, you can get out of jail free, if (California’s Proposition 57) passes. If you do a drive-by shooting, you can get out of jail free, if Proposition 57 passes. If you discharge guns on a school yard, you can get out of jail free.”

Although Congresswoman Sanchez isn’t explicitly lying, she is stretching the truth according to PolitiFact. Inmates convicted of one of 23 violent crimes, listed in Penal Code Section 667.5 (c) including murder, robbery and kidnapping, will not be considered for release at all. Prisoners who are not convicted of any violent crime will be considered for release pending a review by a parole board. In other words, those who commit the gun crimes Sanchez listed would not necessarily be released.

An important distinction between the candidates came on the issue of for-profit universities. Sanchez wants to vet for-profit schools for legitimacy, but supports the industry overall. Harris on the other hand has initiated investigations against for-profit universities including Corinthian Colleges.  She eventually sued Corinthian colleges and shut them down. Harris also pointed out that Sanchez has taken a $5,000 check from Corinthian and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from these for-profit colleges overall.

Both candidates tried to undercut the other, and Harris spent a considerable amount of the debate criticizing Sanchez for a poor attendance record in Congress. She explained that Sanchez had the third worst attendance record in the House and never showed up for any anti-terrorism task force meetings, a committee which she chairs.

The candidates also discussed Proposition 64 and marijuana reform for the upcoming election. Attorney General Harris believes that Prop 64 will pass in November, making recreational use legal for those 21 and older. On a federal level, she wants to move marijuana from a schedule one drug to two, and wants to end the mass incarceration of disproportionately black and Hispanic marijuana offenders.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez also wants to move marijuana off the Schedule one list of drugs and wants to introduce better regulations to make the industry more mainstream and transparent. She explained that banks are hesitant to work with dispensaries because of conflicting federal regulations, creating an all cash industry. Sanchez helped to shut down 119 illegal shops in Santa Ana and opened 19 legal ones, while helping to unionize the shops in her district.

Sanchez stated her position on a few more topics. She wants to fund water distilleries and recycling plants to aid in California’s drought. Sanchez also explained that she was currently carrying a bill through Congress to double Pell Grants for students and offer funding for summer classes and programs. Notable moments in Sanchez’s Congressional voting record include a “no” vote on the Iraq war and the Patriot Act.

Attorney General Harris outlined her position on the drought, stating that the future of California will include water wars if there is no action taken. “We need reliable sources of water,” Harris said, who was recently endorsed by the United Farm Workers, and wants to end the Delta Smelt dilemma preventing water usage in the Central Valley.

During the debate’s closing remarks, Sanchez made sure to pander to the millenial vote by doing the ‘dab’, a dance move popularized by Migos. Kamala Harris’ dumbfounded face was an accurate depiction of others in the room. It was a strange sight to see and has not yet gone viral, so it doesn’t look like Sanchez got the reaction she was hoping for, but is definitely a first for Senate history.

Current California Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein have publicly endorsed Kamala Harris. In fact, they endorsed her early Wednesday, shortly before the debate. Harris has also been endorsed by President Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Governor Jerry Brown.

A recent September Field Poll resulted in 42 percent support among likely voters for Kamala Harris and 20 percent for Loretta Sanchez. As of September about 26 percent of voters remain undecided, mainly due to the absence of a Republican candidate. Many neglected California Republicans may sit out the general election out of fear of casting a vote for the other.

To watch the full live stream of the debate, you can visit Cal State LA’s YouTube upload at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-Ld4FJTra0.

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About the Writer
Ani Nalbandian, Staff Reporter

Ani is a political science major in her senior year at California State University, Los Angeles. She began writing for the University Times in August 2015,...

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