Dem suggests race factored into Obama Senate endorsement

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who is in a heated Democrat-on-Democrat battle for a California Senate seat, suggested President Obama backed her opponent because they're both black. 

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Obama endorsed Kamala Harris, California's attorney general, over Sanchez earlier this week in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (D-Calif.).

Obama praised Harris, a longtime political ally of his, as a "lifelong courtroom prosecutor" who "fights for us." 

But Sanchez on Friday said race may have had something to do with the endorsement. 

"I think they have, what he said they have, is a friendship of many years. She is African American, as is he," Sanchez said in an interview on Univision 19 in Sacramento. 

When initially responding to the endorsement, Sanchez accused Obama of being part of the nation's "entrenched political establishment." 

Harris' campaign called the comments "disappointing."

"At a time when there is so much divisive rhetoric flowing through our politics, it's especially disappointing to see a Democratic member of Congress make those comments," Juan Rodriguez, Harris’ campaign manager, said of Sanchez’s interview, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Sanchez on Friday night clarified her comments, saying she was just "stating the fact that the endorsement was based on their long-term political relationship." 

"In no way did I imply or intend to imply that President Obama endorsed Kamala Harris for racial reasons," Sanchez said in a statement, according to the LA Times.

Two Democrats are facing off for the seat in November because of California's unusual primary rules. All candidates run together in the same primary, and the top two vote-getters face off in the general election. In deep-blue California, that often means two Democrats move on to the general election.