Native voters in California face unique choices in Senate election

U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris (D) on the campaign trail. Photo from Facebook

Native voters in California will choose between two Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate this November.

Kamala Harris, the state's attorney general, and Loretta Sanchez, a member of Congress, will face each other on the general ballot after voters in the state locked out all other candidates -- including Republicans -- from the race.

As the state's top legal official, Harris has opposed at least 15 tribal land-into-trust applications, Dave Palermo reported for in February 2014. She also represented the state in a closely-watched case that questioned the status of land that was placed in trust for the Big Lagoon Rancheria more than a decade ago.

In a big win for tribal interests, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Harris in June 2015. She did not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, a move that could have drawn negative attention to her campaign.

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez (D) on the campaign trail. Photo from Facebook

The California Democratic Party Native American Caucus criticized Harris for her efforts in a different case that sought to diminish the boundaries of the reservation of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. A federal judge refused to entertain the matter in a win for the tribe.

The caucus also had strong words for Sanchez who admitted making an "offensive" statement and gesture about Native Americans in May 2015. The lawmaker apologized for her remarks.

Harris and Sanchez are vying for the seat being left open by the retirement of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), who has been an advocate for tribes during her 10 years in the U.S. House and her 22 years in the Senate. She helped lead a successful fight that prevented the Bush administration from approving a gold mine on land sacred to the Quechan Nation.

Get the Story:
Two Democrats will face off for U.S. Senate in November (The Los Angeles Times 6/8)
Two Democrats Win California’s Open Senate Primary (The New York Times 6/8)
California Poised to Shut Out Republicans From U.S. Senate Race (Reuters 6/8)
California voters face historic choice for US Senate (AP 6/7)

En Banc 9th Circuit Decisions:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (July 8, 2015)
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (June 4, 2015)

Earlier 9th Circuit Decision:
Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California (January 21, 2014)

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