Attorney General Kamala Harris, right with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, speaks at a news conference regarding criminal and civil responses to mortgage fraud in Los Angeles Monday, May 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Attorney General Kamala Harris, right with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, speaks at a news conference regarding criminal and civil responses to mortgage fraud in Los Angeles Monday, May 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Attorney General Kamala Harris, right with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, speaks at a news conference regarding criminal and civil responses to mortgage fraud in Los Angeles Monday, May 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

(Politico) – The procession of prominent Washington Democrats who lined up last week to sing the praises of California Attorney General Kamala Harris for Senate had the feel of an anointment. Sen. Cory Booker said he was “so excited” about her candidacy. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Harris, a favorite of the Obama White House, “smart” and “tough.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told supporters she needed Harris “by my side.”

But back in California, a backlash is brewing among Latinos, who say the Democratic establishment’s quick embrace of Harris threatens to deny a Hispanic candidate a fair shot at the state’s first open Senate seat in more than two decades. Latinos are an outsize force in California politics: With nearly 40 percent of the population, they have moved ahead of whites to become the state’s largest demographic group. Since 1990, Latino representation in the Legislature has more than tripled, and Hispanics have been chosen in recent years to lead both chambers of the state Capitol.

Nothing against Harris, Latino officials say, but there needs to be a level competition for the seat that Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is vacating in 2016.

“National figures should slow their roll a bit and allow this process to evolve naturally so we can all rally around one strong Democratic candidate,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat.

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