Right now, the U.S. Se­nate race is mostly in­vis­i­ble.

The top Demo­cratic can­di­dates are busy col­lect­ing money and en­dorse­ments be­fore turn­ing to the public.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - CATH­LEEN DECKER cath­leen.decker @latimes.com Twit­ter: @cath­leen­decker For more on pol­i­tics, go to www.latimes.com/decker.

Watch­ing the U.S. Se­nate race in Cal­i­for­nia makes you yearn for one of those child­hood giz­mos that mag­i­cally makes in­vis­i­ble ink vis­i­ble. With­out one, the race has been hard to see.

Ka­mala Harris has been go­ing about her busi­ness as at­tor­ney gen­eral, do­ing work that oc­ca­sion­ally serves a cam­paign pur­pose and float­ing above any fray that might oth­er­wise de­velop.

Her sole se­ri­ous op­po­nent in the Demo­cratic Party, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana, has been work­ing in Washington and rais­ing money all over, try­ing to make up for a later — and stum­bling — start. Most of what she and Harris have done is, of ne­ces­sity, be­hind closed doors.

This is the money and endorsement sea­son, mean­ing that public ap­pear­ances aren’t the high­est pri­or­ity for can­di­dates. Right now, the pri­or­i­ties in­clude rais­ing enough money to make a good im­pres­sion when the first fi­nan­cial re­ports, for the pe­riod end­ing June 30, are re­leased.

En­dorse­ments also are cov­eted be­cause they carry with them the po­ten­tial of money and man­power, and the al­lure of for­ward progress.

Harris scored an im­por­tant one last week when she se­cured the back­ing of the Cal­i­for­nia branch of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union. It was both con­crete, in that the union will now com­mu­ni­cate its wishes to rank-and-file mem­bers, and sym­bolic, in that it de­nied some­thing to Sanchez that could have pro­vided a boom­let of pub- lic­ity for her cam­paign.

The run-up to Harris’ endorsement, though, says some­thing about why she re­mains the front-run­ner, ab­sent some shock­ing de­vel­op­ment.

Both women are in­cum­bents with po­lit­i­cal day jobs. But in ser­vice of hers, Sanchez spends much of her time in Washington, cap­tive to the con­gres­sional sched­ule. Later, it may be an ad­van­tage that she has years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on is­sues that Harris has not had to con­tem­plate as at­tor­ney gen­eral (but is cer­tainly study­ing now).

For now, though, the con­gres­sional job is a ma­jor time com­pli­ca­tion — and a com­pli­ca­tion that of­ten has her far from Cal­i­for­nia.

Harris, by com­par­i­son, has the state to her­self much of the time. And although she has not worked for as long as Sanchez on na­tional is­sues, her job has paid some def­i­nite ben­e­fits.

In late spring, for ex­am­ple, her of­fice an­nounced that it would hold a num­ber of statewide meet­ings to dis­cuss Pres­i­dent Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions on immigration re­form. The meet­ings, to be held in eight Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties, are be­ing co-spon­sored by Univi­sion, the media gi­ant, and SEIU.

Ear­lier in the spring, she dealt with SEIU dur­ing a pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tion over the pro­posed sale of a chain of six hos­pi­tals. Faced with pres­sure from some unions to ap­prove the sale to save jobs, and from oth­ers, in­clud­ing the healthcare work­ers arm of SEIU, to force pro­tec­tions for com­mu­nity mem­bers, Harris threaded a com­pro­mise that would have ex­tracted con­ces­sions from the buyer.

In other words, Harris through her role as at­tor­ney gen­eral had op­por­tu­nity to build a re­la­tion­ship with SEIU, which re­sulted in the group’s endorsement.

Harris has worked from the be­gin­ning of her cam­paign — she jumped in swiftly af­ter Bar­bara Boxer an­nounced she would not seek a new term in 2016 — to seek real and sym­bolic es­tab­lish­ment cred­i­bil­ity. In March, two months af­ter she en­tered the race and while Sanchez was still pon­der­ing whether to run, she grabbed the endorsement of Emily’s List, the na­tional do­na­tion ma­chine that ben­e­fits fe­male can­di­dates.

She scram­bled to sign up Latino and African Amer­i­can en­dorsers early on when for­mer Los An­ge­les Mayor An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa was de­cid­ing whether to run. (Ul­ti­mately, he de­cided against the race.)

“She’s cer­tainly build­ing the frame­work for what ul­ti­mately will be the cam­paign: build­ing the cam­paign team, meet­ing with pol­icy ad­vi­sors and dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies and earn­ing en­dorse­ments,” said Harris cam­paign spokesman Brian Brokaw.

Her day job “is a job she takes se­ri­ously and very much en­joys,” he added. “Un­doubt­edly she spends many nights in liv­ing rooms up and down the state [rais­ing money]. That’s the re­al­ity of run­ning in a state as large as ours.”

Sanchez is do­ing much the same thing, bring­ing on cam­paign staff, in­clud­ing a fi­nance di­rec­tor. Sanchez is try­ing to tap a fundrais­ing op­er­a­tion that has had some na­tional heft given her sur­prise win in 1996 over a long­time Demo­cratic neme­sis, Repub­li­can Rep. Bob Dor­nan, and her suc­ces­sive con­gres­sional vic­to­ries.

“We’ve had to dig in and start get­ting the fundrais­ing go­ing, which has been a lot of call­ing past donors and peo­ple who have con­trib­uted to her con­gres­sional races,” said Sanchez strate­gist Bill Car­rick.

“There’s been a con­gres­sional sched­ule that has been pretty hec­tic; she’s spent a good deal of time back there and go­ing back and forth.”

In fact, she sched­uled two con­gres­sional events in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia this week­end: one a ground­break­ing at an Or­ange County wa­ter dis­trict fa­cil­ity and another a speech at a com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 65th an­niver­sary of the Korean War. (Harris sched­uled a rare cam­paign event on Sun­day, when she is to ap­pear at a gay pride pa­rade in San Fran­cisco.)

Both sides an­tic­i­pate that the race will ul­ti­mately grow more vis­i­ble as sum­mer turns to fall — although that re­mains more in un­der­dog Sanchez’s in­ter­est than in Harris’. For now there is a lot of money to harvest, and a lot of time to spend di­al­ing for dol­lars or be­hind closed doors.

‘We’ve had to dig in and start get­ting the fundrais­ing go­ing....’

— Bill Car­rick,

strate­gist for U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s cam­paign

Gary Fried­man Los An­ge­les Times

ATTY. GEN. KA­MALA HARRIS, whose job is based in Cal­i­for­nia, may have a leg up on her top op­po­nent for now, but U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s fa­mil­iar­ity with na­tional is­sues could give her a boost later on.

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