My Take on the First Senate Debate

Ron Unz
Chairman of The Higher Wages Alliance, and Candidate for U.S. Senate

For most of the past year, California’s ongoing U.S. Senate race for the seat held by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer has received virtually no public attention, partly because the lack of the usual millions in television advertising led few people to even realize it was even happening.

More recently, the total focus on the Republican presidential antics of Donald Trump and his opponents had distracted the media and politically-engaged activists from what was anyway considered one of the safest Democratic senate seats in America.

But with the primary election just six weeks away, such lack of coverage is starting to change, especially after Monday night’s first statewide televised debate, featuring both Democrats Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, as well as the three Republican contenders, including myself as a late entry.  Harris, the Democratic Party’s officially endorsed choice, has a wide lead in the polls, so the crucial question is whether any Republican can edge past Sanchez to make it to November under California’s new “Top Two” primary system.

The San Francisco Chronicle had been a co-sponsor of the debate, and naturally gave it the most coverage, with a large front-page story running in Tuesday morning’s edition.

Reading it, I was quite pleased with the coverage, since it seemed that my often provocative and unexpected responses received considerably more coverage than the somewhat more cautious or even stilted statements by front-runner Harris and the other candidates.

Obviously, when a Republican candidate praises Bernie Sanders’s suggested crackdown on Wall Street or describes George Bush’s Iraq War as a total disaster for America or says that raising the national minimum wage to $12 per hour would be among his top priorities, such statements are reasonably newsworthy, especially when that Republican leads all the others, if only by a hair.  Donald Trump’s unexpectedly successful presidential campaign certainly benefited early on from the same outrageousness in his statements, although their character was somewhat different in nature.

And since ink is one of the scarcest and most valuable political resources in California campaigns not fueled by millions in television ads, I’d think that stories emphasizing my unique positions on popular issues that cross party lines might boost my numbers a little, giving me a stronger platform to further articulate my positions.

As it happened, the particular handful of questions asked and my responses perhaps made me seem much more like a “ iberal Republican” than I actually am, but given the strongly liberal skew of the state electorate and the Chronicle’s Bay Area readership in particular, this is not necessarily something that would draw my complaints at this stage.

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