LOS ANGELES — California Rep. Loretta Sanchez raised $618,000 in her first six weeks as a U.S. Senate candidate, according to figures released Wednesday, well short of the pace she will need to keep up with fundraising by her chief rival, Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The two Democrats are the leading candidates in the 2016 contest to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. Harris, who entered the race in January, has established herself as the early front-runner by building a substantial edge in fundraising and endorsements.
Sanchez, who entered the race in mid-May, raised an average of roughly $13,000 a day. But she'll need to more than double that pace to run a no-frills campaign in the large, expensive state, said Democratic consultant Michael Trujillo.
Money frequently plays a decisive role in statewide campaigns, where a week of TV ads in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets will run at least $2 million. With the popularity of early, mail-in voting in California, those ads must go on the air weeks before election day.
As of June 30, Harris had more than $3 million in the bank, after raising about $1.6 million in the three months that ended June 30, according to her campaign.
By comparison, Sanchez, a 10-term House member from Orange County, had over $1 million on hand. That's after transferring over $500,000 to her Senate campaign from a separate committee that had raised money for her House races.
Sanchez "has a lot of work to do ... if she wants to be competitive," said Democratic consultant Roger Salazar. "The one thing she has on her side is time."
The primary is in June, nearly a year away.
In her first statewide campaign, Sanchez faces the challenge of introducing herself to voters across California who know little or nothing about her. Harris has won two statewide contests for attorney general, but polls suggest she is not well known outside her home base in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Democrats are expected to easily retain the seat in a state where the party holds every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature.
Two little-known Republicans are seeking the seat: Tom Del Beccaro, a former state party chairman, and two-term Assemblyman Rocky Chavez from San Diego County.