California Rep. Loretta Sanchez enters 2016 US Senate race

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Representative Loretta Sanchez of Orange County announced Thursday she is jumping into the race to fill open seat in the U.S. Senate setting up a competitive — and expensive — Democratic primary to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer. She'll be facing off against state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sanchez announced her campaign at the Santa Ana train station surrounded by family and friends, two days after an email misstep that caused confusion about whether she would launch a campaign.

"I am running for the Senate because I know how to get things done," Sanchez said.

Others had considered running, but were deterred by Harris's quick announcement of her candidacy in January and her formidable campaign.

"I believe that insiders don't pick our leaders," Sanchez said Thursday. "The voters pick our leaders."

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he had been considering running but then backed off in February. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Tuesday said he wouldn’t run either, after having given it some thought.

“I think it was strategic to try to push out some potential opponents,” Louis DeSipio, political science professor at the University of California, said of Harris's early announcement.

Sanchez, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1996, represents central Orange County, a densely diverse area with large populations of Vietnamese and Latino residents.

She has taken on immigration and refugee issues, which have won her support from local constituencies. To win, Sanchez will have to broader her appeal beyond Southern California.

“She’ll need to build a statewide constituency,” said DeSipio. “One of her natural potential alliances is to win Latino votes from elsewhere in the state.”  

As for Republicans, state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside and former California party chair Tom Del Beccaro have announced they’re running. 

This story has been updated.

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