LOS ANGELES — California’s U.S. Senate candidates debated for an hour Wednesday, dueling over topics from crime rates to terrorism. But it could be a brief, theatrical gesture near the close of the matchup that gets remembered. The highlights from the Los Angeles matchup:


Rep. Loretta Sanchez has tried for months to generate buzz in her uphill U.S. Senate campaign against Attorney General Kamala Harris. She finally did, but not for anything she said.

Sanchez capped an hour-long debate with her fellow Democrat on Wednesday by mimicking a celebratory gesture popularized by NFL star Cam Newton, known as “the dab.” Standing behind a lectern, she suddenly thrust out her left arm, while tucking her head into the crook of right arm, then holding the pose for a moment before picking her head up with a flourish.

Her rival Harris initially looked puzzled, then a smile gradually creased her face and she began laughing.

“So there’s a clear difference between the candidates in this race,” Harris chuckled.

“There definitely is,” Sanchez snapped back, in a rare moment of agreement in the debate.

Snapshots of Sanchez’s pose and video clips of the scene made the rounds on social media and websites Thursday.

In an email, campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino dubbed the gesture the “debate dab.”


Harris has been the undisputed favorite of the Democratic establishment, piling up endorsements from President Barack Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Boxed out in her own party, Sanchez has been making open appeals for Republican support in a race where only two Democrats will appear on the ballot.

Sanchez never made a direct appeal for GOP votes during the debate but did mention issues that typically resonate with Republicans, including concern over the state’s rising violent crime rate, regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and her experience in military affairs on Capitol Hill. She noted she has worked across party lines.

And she embraced her role as the outsider.

Alluding to Harris’ support in the Democratic Party, Sanchez said, “Don’t vote for the establishment” and also referred to Harris and “her cronies.”


Sanchez’s spotty voting record in Washington, compiled in the midst of the Senate campaign, was a target for Harris. “I think it is important that you show up, and that’s the kind of leadership California wants,” Harris said.

Sanchez argued that her attendance record, prior to her Senate campaign, was 95 percent. “To do democracy in a large state like California, something’s got to give. But I have never missed a close, crucial vote,” Sanchez responded.


California has witnessed an increase in violent crime rates in 2015, according to FBI data. Sanchez faults Harris for the jump, arguing that the increases occurred while the attorney general was campaigning. Referring to the rising numbers, Sanchez said, “That is a report card you do not want to show to your dad.” Harris did not directly address the state crime data.