U.S. Senate Candidates Hoping to Fill Barbara Boxer’s Seat Face Off in Debate

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STOCKTON --

There are more than 30 candidates vying for a U.S. Senate seat that hasn't been open in California since 1992.

A Field Poll recently showed that 48 percent of the electorate is still undecided.

Post-debate and still on-message, California's Attorney General and U.S. Senate hopeful, Kamala Harris pushed an increased minimum wage and paid family leave as a way to stop income inequality as she reached to voters.

"I know that most people are focused on how to put food on the table," she said.

She's had the most name recognition in the race since announcing her bid for the seat of a retiring Barbara Boxer, but Harris has perhaps been the candidate voters have heard from the least.

Others who will share the ballot with her, spent Monday sounding off.

Here are some of their views on income inequality:

"We invest in America, we invest in ourselves and we have a vibrant economy," said current Congresswoman and Democrat Loretta Sanchez.

"For five years now, I've been pushing the idea of a $12 dollar minimum wage," said Republican candidate Ron Unz.

"The bottom 90 percent lost $1,600 in income, so the key is economic growth," emphasized Republican senate candidate Tom Del Beccaro.

"Are we really benefiting people by increasing the minimum wage? It's much more effective to create better private sector jobs," suggested fellow Republican senate candidate Duf Sundheim,

Monday's debate featured the top five candidates in the race -- giving those who aren't Harris the chance to grab voters' attention.

Oneal Bracken from Tracy said with five weeks to go until primary day, Harris' name is really still the only one he knows.

One floor up from where the words were flying on the University of the Pacific's debate stage, independent candidate Clive Grey was upset he wasn't allowed to take part with former state Republican Party Chairmen Del Beccaro and Sundheim, Republican software exec Unz and current democratic Congresswoman Sanchez.

"When I tried to get into this debate, they told me it was only the top four polled, but they don't poll the Independents 'cause there is no Independent party," he said.

Unz, who repeatedly says a Republican can't win this race, got into the debate instead of Grey.

On the debate stage, mounting college debt and what to do about it was a topic chewed on early.

Harris and Sanchez supported a free community college plan, Unz opted for slashing bloated administrations to trim tuitions and Sundheim and Del Beccaro were against the free model altogether.

Del Beccaro backed better job growth to help students pay back what they owe, saying he understood the crisis, once suffering with about $23,000 in loans.

"One person up there said.... they understand. I don't think you understand it. That's not everyone's story here. They're leaving with hundreds of thousands of dollars (in debt,)" said grad student Ryan Hekman.

With the top two primary vote-getters headed to the ballot regardless of party affiliation, many suspected Sanchez would be the biggest target of the night.

In reality, attacks were minimal.

Sundheim went after her once as she touted her immigration policy, calling her out for not actually showing up to committee meetings on the topic.

When it came to issues of integrity, Del Beccaro took aim on candidate Harris' support of Planned Parenthood -- an organization under the legal spotlight for fetal tissue sales.

"As attorney general she should not be cheerleading for Planned Parenthood," he said.

Harris fired back.

"Whether it be Planned Parenthood or any other organization that affords a woman a chance to have access to reproductive health, I am in support of that organization. And I think we can't play politics with that. And as it relates to the work that I'm doing as it relates to other matters, I'm going to go where the evidence leads, period."

The top candidates will face off in a second debate on May 10 in San Diego.

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