Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Jan. 7, 1960, Lynwood .
Home: Garden Grove.
Education: Chapman U., B.A. 1982, American U., M.B.A. 1984.
Professional Career: Mgr. & financial analyst, Orange Cnty. Transp. Auth., 1984–87; Asst. vice pres., Fieldman, Rolapp & Assoc., 1987–90; Assoc., Booz, Allen & Hamilton, 1990–93; Principal, Amiga Advisors, 1993-96.
The congresswoman from the 47th District is Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat first elected in 1996. She and her sister, Linda Sánchez, are the first sisters to serve in Congress. (Linda uses the accent mark with her surname; Loretta does not.) Loretta is nine years older than Linda, who represents California’s 39th District. They co-authored a 2008 memoir titled Dream in Color.
|Loretta Sanchez (D)||85,878||(69%)||($1,258,594)|
|Rosemarie Avila (R)||31,432||(25%)||($52,639)|
|Robert Lauten (AMI)||6,274||(5%)|
|Loretta Sanchez (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (60%), 2002 (61%), 2000 (60%), 1998 (56%), 1996 (47%)
Sanchez was raised in Anaheim. Her parents were Mexican immigrants, her father a machinist and her mother a secretary who worked to organize a union at the plant where she worked. Sanchez graduated from Chapman University in Orange, and got an M.B.A. from American University in Washington. She worked as a financial analyst, providing advice on municipal finances to public agencies and private businesses, and then started her own firm in the early 1990s. In 1994, she ran for the Anaheim City Council under her married name, Loretta Sanchez-Brixey, and lost. In 1996, she ran for the U.S. House, this time as Loretta Sanchez, against one of the most vocal conservatives, Rep. Robert Dornan. In the primary against three Anglo male Democrats, she won with 35%. That victory attracted little attention, not even from Dornan. But she shrewdly counted on increasing Latino turnout, plus attracting contributions from the many enemies that Dornan had made over a political career that went back to 1976. President Bill Clinton came to Santa Ana late in the campaign to stump for Sanchez, and may have made the difference. She won by 984 votes, 47%-46%. Dornan charged vote fraud, and, using the privileges afforded to former members, he regularly appeared on the House floor trying to convince his former colleagues to call for a special election. But in February 1998, the House Administration Committee upheld Sanchez’s victory.
After her election, Sanchez was named general co-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to lead a Hispanic voter-registration drive, and Vice President Al Gore tapped her as an honorary chair of his political action committee. But that proved a mixed blessing for both Sanchez and her party. She scheduled a fundraiser during the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, which Gore and many other Democrats said was not good for the party’s image. She was urged to choose a new site and was warned that she was jeopardizing her political future. She moved the event to Universal Studio’s City Walk. In early 2007, Sanchez was at the center of a controversy at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She and other women in the caucus complained that Chairman Joe Baca of California was dismissive of them. Further, she accused Baca of calling her “whore,” which he denied.
In the House, Sanchez’s voting record has been in the Democratic middle. U.S.-Vietnam relations have been a focus for her. She accompanied Clinton on his 2000 visit there, and met with dissidents to discuss human rights. In 2007, after three times having been denied a visa, she returned to Vietnam and again stirred controversy by attempting to meet with the wives of imprisoned dissidents and criticizing the government’s lack of openness. As the senior woman on the Armed Services Committee, she has tried to update the sexual assault crimes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice to comply with the way civilian sexual assault crimes are handled at the federal level. In 2004, the House passed her provision for the Pentagon to study the loss of civilian income by reservists on active duty. She is the No. 2 Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, where she has focused on port security, including her proposal for a secure, long-range automated vessel-tracking system. She chairs the Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee.
Sanchez has been re-elected comfortably. Voters have grown accustomed to her unconventional style, including her quirky Christmas cards, which feature her aging white cat Gretzky, and her monthly cable access show titled Loretta Live. Ever ambitious, Sanchez has said that she might like to be a senator someday. For a few days in August 2003, she floated her name as a Democratic candidate in the governor recall election. And in 2009, she was again considering a run for California governor.