Top candidates for California's U.S. Senate face off in live debate

- The Latest on the U.S. Senate debate (all times local):

8:30 p.m.

California's Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris cemented her front-runner status while four challengers vied for a second-place spot in the primary election that would allow them to move on to November in the race's first televised debate.

Monday night's debate in Stockton came six weeks before the primary and spanned a range of substantive issues but failed to produce any major zingers.

Republicans Tom Del Beccaro, Duf Sundheim and Ron Unz acknowledge they're hoping to come in second to Harris on the June 7th top-two primary.

So does U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat from conservative Orange County who played up her roles as the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Both Democrats backed free community college and expanded Pell grants and said they would expand gun control and loosen federal drug policy.


7:30 p.m.

The candidates at Monday night's first televised debate for California's U.S. Senate seat were asked a broad question on crime that led to one of the evening's few heated exchanges.

Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris touted the gun control policies she has backed as attorney general. She says she would renew the assault weapons ban, support reasonable database checks and would try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. She says she doesn't like the binary labels of pro-Second Amendment or anti-gun.

Tom Del Beccaro took on Harris, saying taking guns away from law-abiding citizens isn't the answer. He also attacked her for supporting the sanctuary cities movement that allows people in the country illegally to avoid deportation.


6:50 p.m.

The five candidates for U.S. Senate are weighing in on President Barack Obama's national security policy.

The front-runner in the race, Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris, was the only one to agree at Monday night's debate that the Obama administration is on the right track when it comes to foreign policy. She added that there is more work to be done.

Former Republican Party chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim both say Obama should be doing more. Sundheim says there's no combined strategy.

Sanchez, who has the most foreign policy experience as one of the senior Democrats on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, says she's given Obama a piece of her mind on "where he could do more and where he could do better."

Republican entrepreneur Ron Unz says the Obama administration has had terrible Middle East policies, the Bush administration before him was even worse.


6:30 p.m.

Five California candidates for U.S. Senator were asked in their first televised debate who they would help in a troubled economy if they reach the Senate.

Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez said at the Monday night debate that we need to invest in education, saying she was helped by Head Start as a child and by government grants as a college student. She added that community college should be free.

Republican entrepreneur Ron Unz declared his support for a higher minimum wage, but declared the $15 recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown is probably too high, preferring a $12 minimum himself.

Democratic state Attorney General and front-runner in the race Kamala Harris said we need a national commitment to affordable child care and preschool, and to increased family leave benefits.

Republican Duf Sundheim said we need to create private sector jobs, and some businesses can't afford the new minimum wage.

Another Republican, Tom Del Beccaro, said his opponents want government solutions all of these problems, but government can't solve everything.


5:30 p.m.:

Five candidates are preparing to meet in the first televised debate in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Monday night's debate at the University of the Pacific in Stockton features two Democratic candidates and three Republicans.

It's being moderated by hosts from KCRA-TV in Sacramento and The San Francisco Chronicle and will include questions from college students.

Candidates will get 90 seconds to initially answer each question and 30 seconds to answer follow-ups. There are no opening statements.

The race was expected to be a heated one after Boxer announced her retirement, so far it's been low-profile and about half of voters are undecided. Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris is the front-runner.

The debate is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and last 90 minutes.


1:50 p.m.:

The candidates vying to replace longtime Sen. Barbara Boxer are meeting for the first time Monday night at a live TV debate in Stockton.

The race has so far drawn little attention but is heating up ahead of the June 3rd top-two primary.

The front runner is not in question: Democratic state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

But several others are vying for second place. Four others will appear on the debate stage tonight, all trying to show they are worthy of the Senate mantle.

They are Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, of Orange County, who is in second place in polling, and three Republicans.

Two former state GOP chairmen, Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, and physicist and entrepreneur Ron Unz, are all vying for votes in the unusual race.

Read more here:

From Phil Shuman:

If you were hoping for fireworks or gotcha moments or breakthroughs in tonight's U.S. Senate debate, you were disappointed. But what the 90 minutes did do on stage at the University of the Pacific in Stockton was enable voters who cared enough to pay attention to put names to the faces and get a sense of who these five candidates are.

Kamala Harris, Attorney General, is the front runner and did nothing to diminish that status. She was calm, and confident, talking about her record as a career crime fighter and prosecutor. Loretta Sanchez has already been in Washington for 20 years and touts her experience, in particular on national security related issues.

Three Republicans know they have a long way to go to make it to the top two, but are trying. Tom Del Becarro and Duff Sundheim are both Bay area lawyers and former Republican Party Chairmen here, who thing ''big government'' needs to be cut way back.

Businessman and publisher and author Ron Unz is the third Republican, a late entrant who is a distant third but one who prides himself on '' abolishing bilingual education'' in California... or at least trying to. Did they change anyone's minds? Probably not. Was it worthwhile? Definitely.


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