California Attorney General Kamala Harris has seized the state's open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.
A preliminary exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research found Harris easily defeated her fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
Sanchez faced an uphill battle ever since the June primary, when Harris won 53 out of California's 58 counties. Sanchez barely edged out Harris in her own Orange County.
The attorney general was boosted by her close ties to President Obama, the state Democratic Party, labor unions and other key constituencies. In the final weeks, she won endorsements from Gov. Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
Sean Clegg, a key Harris campaign strategist, says her quick decision to jump into the race less than a week after Boxer announced her retirement in 2015 framed the contest from the beginning.