Rep. Linda Sánchez (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Jan. 28, 1969, Orange .
Education: U. of CA, B.A. 1991, U.C.L.A., J.D. 1995.
Family: Married (Jim Sullivan); 1 child.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1995-98; Exec. secy. treas. of Orange Cnty. AFL-CIO, 2000-02.
The congresswoman from the 39th District is Linda Sánchez, a Democrat first elected in 2002 and the junior member of the first pair of sisters ever elected to Congress. Her sister is Loretta Sanchez, who is nine years older and was elected to the House from Orange County in 1996. They are two of the seven children of Mexican immigrant parents Ignacio Sánchez, a machinist, and Maria Macias, a bilingual education aide in an elementary school. Their parents met while trying to organize a union at a tire shop where they worked when they were young. Their mother once took little Linda to a rally to hear famed migrant farmworker organizer César Chávez speak. Linda Sánchez earned her undergraduate and law degrees at the University of California (Los Angeles), working her way through school with jobs as a security guard, nanny, and teacher’s aide. She became a civil-rights lawyer and was executive secretary-treasurer of the Orange County Federation of Labor. “She’s definitely the more liberal one,” Loretta has said. Two of their five siblings are business owners, one is a mortgage broker, another is a securities broker, and the other a civil engineer.
|Linda Sánchez (D)||125,289||(70%)||($439,587)|
|Diane Lenning (R)||54,533||(30%)||($18,479)|
|Linda Sánchez (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (61%), 2002 (55%)
When the district lines were unveiled for this new seat, Linda Sánchez was one of six Democrats who ran for it. Her most important asset was her sister’s support. She tapped Loretta’s extensive fundraising network, walked precincts with her, and appeared in a television commercial with her. In a Spanish ad, their mother urged voters to send both of her daughters to Capitol Hill. All of this work gave Linda Sánchez an advantage over her two chief opponents, who were better known when the race began: two-term Assemblywoman Sally Havice and South Gate Councilman Hector De La Torre, who had worked several years in Washington as a legislative aide and Labor Department official. The three candidates differed very little on the issues.
Sánchez’s ties to labor helped her build a strong voter-turnout operation, and with help from her sister, she won the endorsement of then-House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi of California. Her opponents noted that no Latino members of Congress endorsed Sánchez, and they charged that she was a political opportunist who changed her name and residence to run in the newly created district. Like her sister, Sánchez had used her non-Latino married name until she started to run for the House. But she won the primary with 33% of the vote; De La Torre received 29% and Havice 19%. This district is not as Democratic as the four other L.A.-based Hispanic-majority districts, and the negative primary campaign may have hurt Sánchez in the general election. Republican Tim Escobar, a financial adviser and former Army helicopter pilot, called her an inexperienced liberal extremist. But Sánchez won 55%-41%, and she has been re-elected easily since then.
Sánchez has a strongly liberal voting record. The first law she sponsored as a member of Congress would have provided federal funds to help stop bullying in schools. She was able to get the proposal into the Justice Department authorization bill, but it died in the Senate. Later, in 2008, Sánchez took the lead in defining “cyberbullying” as electronic communications intended to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress.” She sponsored a bill making it a crime. Her other legislative priorities have included an increase in small-business loan limits from $35,000 to $50,000. She attacked the House Republican proposal to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants for “using national security as a facade to alienate law-abiding and taxpaying immigrants.”
With Democrats in the majority in 2007, Sánchez gained more influence as the chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee’s Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, where she worked with senior Democrats on hearings to oversee the Bush administration’s allegedly politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys around the country. When senior White House political adviser Karl Rove refused to cooperate, Sánchez initiated a move to find him in contempt of Congress. When Rove capitulated in March 2009, the House dropped its lawsuit against him. In January 2009, Sánchez won a plum assignment to the House Ways and Means Committee. As co-founder of the House Trade Working Group, she pledged tougher review of proposed international trade deals. Liberal Democrats have long maintained that trade deals should be contingent on foreign countries’ complying with U.S.-style labor, health, and environmental laws. She also sponsored a bill to permit consumer lawsuits against overseas manufacturers of defective products.
In the 2008 presidential contest, the Sánchez women split. Linda endorsed Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination as “very principled,” and Loretta backed Hillary Rodham Clinton and criticized her younger sister for ignoring the gender significance.
On the personal front, Sánchez has won kudos from Washington insiders for her hilarious routines at the D.C. Improv, a professional comedy club that often hosts charity fundraisers featuring members of Congress. One of her jokes is often cited: “Republicans make love like they make war. They lie to get in, and they don’t know what to do when they get there.” In November 2008, Sánchez announced that she was pregnant with her first child. Sánchez, who was divorced, in April 2009 married boyfriend Jim Sullivan, public-relations consultant, in a quiet ceremony on Capitol Hill. “I don’t think that marriage and childbirth are black-and-white,” Sánchez told the Los Angeles Times. “There are certain instances in which you have to do things in reverse order.”