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Candidates For US Senate Meet For First Debate

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The San Francisco Chronicle / AP Pool

Candidates for California's U.S. Senate seat applaud on stage before a U.S. Senate debate at The University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Monday, April 25, 2016.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The San Francisco Chronicle / AP Pool

Final update, 12:01 a.m. (Ben Bradford) — Five candidates in two different parties competed in the first debate for an open California U.S. Senate seat in more than two decades.

Democratic state Attorney General Kamala, the frontrunner in multiple polls, touted her prosecution of banks after the financial crisis. She also largely avoided specific policy proposals, which the moderator, San Francisco Chronicle editorial editor John Diaz, noted.

"You did not engage the question, which is if President Obama is on the right track," Diaz said after one Harris answer.

"I think there are many tracks," the Attorney General responded.

When, Diaz later asked if she plays it too safe, Harris described her approach this way:

"Fearless, yes. Reckless, no."

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the other Democrat in the race, is second in the polls. She contrasted her experience with the other candidates.

"They haven’t been under the pressure," Sanchez said. "I said no to the Iraq war. I said no to the so-called Patriot Act."

The three Republicans are polling in single digits, and tried to distinguish themselves. Former California Republican Party chair Tom Del Beccaro is the most conservative of the candidates.

"Government isn’t the answer to everything," Del Beccaro said on two occasions.

Another former party chair, Duf Sundheim, has positioned himself as the moderate. Diaz asked him about his support for gay rights, gun control and abortion rights.

"I’m a very proud Republican," Sundheim responded. "And I’ve been a Republican all my life, but I’m not a blind Republican."

Because the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to the general election, the candidates can cater to voters outside their bases. Software engineer Ron Unz, another Republican candidate, targeted both sides of the ideological spectrum.

"We have to crack down on Wall Street, just like Bernie Sanders is saying," Unz says. "Another factor, immigration levels are too high."

No candidate mentioned Senator Barbara Boxer, the four-term Senator whose vacant seat has opened up this race.

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6:30 p.m. (AP) — 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.

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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.

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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.