The Two Latest Senate Candidates

California Senate

May 18, 2015 — The on-again-off-again Loretta Sanchez for Senate campaign finally became official. Earlier in the cycle, Rep. Sanchez (D-CA-46) told supporters she would announce for the Senate, only to put her statewide plans on hold.

Earlier last week a statement came from her political headquarters saying that a special announcement would be made Thursday. Immediately, that comment was withdrawn, with Sanchez saying she was only considering the race. She then reversed direction yet again, and this time did formally declare for the Senate.

With the campaign beginning in bungling fashion, Sanchez finds herself in the role of major underdog to a fellow Democrat, Attorney General Kamala Harris. But, coming from far behind in a race few thought she could win is exactly how she began her political career back in 1996. That is when she upset then-Rep. Bob Dornan (R) by a mere 984 votes, and has not been seriously challenged since. Now at 55, Rep. Sanchez will risk what will be a 20-year House career to venture toward a statewide contest.

While geography and demography may favor her -– a Democratic southern California Hispanic is reflective of the California electorate -– raising the millions of dollars it will take to compete in a Golden State campaign will be a tall order. In the first quarter of the year, Sanchez raised only $213,277 and has $539,719 in her congressional campaign account to begin the race. This is a far cry from what could be a $10 million-plus primary campaign, and much more than that for November. By contrast, Harris raised over $2.5 million in the same time frame.

Under California election law, two members of the same party can advance to the general election. If Sanchez can energize the huge statewide Hispanic community and connect with what should be a dominant southern California vote, she might have a chance of advancing beyond June.

Sanchez fits the profile of a candidate who could win a California statewide election, but she begins this Senate race far behind. It remains to be seen if she can become an effective challenger to Ms. Harris.

Wisconsin Senate

It has been expected since former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) left his State Department position earlier this year that he would seek a re-match with the man who unceremoniously unseated him five years ago, Sen. Ron Johnson (R). Last week, Feingold made that supposition reality.

The Wisconsin Senate battle could well decide the body’s majority, since Democrats need to convert at least four seats to regain control and several states are in precarious political positions for Republicans.

Early polling suggests that Feingold’s chances of victory are better than most defeated politicians returning to the scene. He leads Johnson by nine and 16 points in two separate surveys conducted within the last two months. On the other hand, should Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker win the Republican presidential nomination, politics in this marginal state could drastically change, and that would help the incumbent.

Feingold has political history running for and against him. Johnson is only the second Wisconsin Republican elected senator since Joseph P. McCarthy died in 1957. Conversely, the last time a defeated senator returned to win back the seat from the man he lost to six years previously was all the way back in 1934 in Rhode Island, according to the Smart Politics organization.

Next year, this race promises to be one of the most hard-fought campaigns in the country.

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