Loretta Sanchez

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez greets paradegoers during a Veterans Day celebration in Fullerton in 2008. Some say Sanchez’s lack of restraint could work to her advantage. (File: Michael Goulding / Staff Photographer)

By Martin Wisckol / Staff Writer
May 18, 2015
Updated: May 19, 2015 – 12:12 a.m.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s colorful, freewheeling persona shows no signs of being watered down for her U.S. Senate race, as she demonstrated at last weekend’s state Democratic convention in Anaheim.

But this time, the attention wasn’t the kind she sought.

Aside from her congressional record, the Santa Ana Democrat is known for enthusiastic dancing in the streets during Huntington Beach’s annual Fourth of July parades and her sometimes coquettish holiday cards to constituents. The cards have featured her in bed with her cat, and ballroom dancing in a slinky silver dress.

She and her interns filmed a 2012 video parody of “Call Me Maybe.”

But the flip side of her unconventional style reared its head Saturday. Sanchez’s affection for spontaneous stories found her telling a tale of going to meet a potential Indian American donor she assumed was Native American. But rather than saying “Native American,” she imitated an Indian war chant, patting her hand over her mouth.

“I’m going to his office thinking I’m going to meet with – woo woo woo woo, right?” she said at a gathering of Indian Americans. Video shot by a supporter of her Democratic opponent was posted online soon afterward, and the next day she apologized during her speech to delegates.

Some find her lack of restraint refreshing and think it can still work to her advantage with voters – as long as she doesn’t make a habit of inadvertently offending people.

“People are going to get tired of the excessive carefulness,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. “Having an unorthodox personality can work for you. But you have to make it work for you. This was a clear instance where there’s no benefit.”

Sonenshein is among experts who see Sanchez, who entered the race last week, as an underdog to fellow Democrat Kamala Harris, the state’s attorney general who in January declared her candidacy to succeed soon-to-be retired Sen. Barbara Boxer.

But working to Sanchez’s advantage are 19 years of experience in Congress and senior roles on the Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Her unbridled personal style often extends to her politics. She was among the minority voting against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act.

Meanwhile, her support of immigration reform with a path to citizenship for those in the country with documents and her opposition to President Barack Obama’s request for foreign trade authorization precede Harris staking out the same positions publicly.


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