Loretta Sanchez

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, speaks at the Democratic Foundation of Orange County’s luncheon at the Hilton in Irvine on Monday. (KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

April 20, 2015 – Updated 9:19 p.m.

Sounding like she’s on the verge of declaring her candidacy for U.S. Senate, Rep. Loretta Sanchez encouraged donors in Orange County to pony up Monday and explained why she would be a better choice than Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sanchez, a Santa Ana Democrat, has been meeting with Democratic and Latino leaders throughout the state as she weighs whether to join Harris, the only major declared Democratic candidate, in the 2016 race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

“We’ve gotten a good reception up and down the state,” Sanchez told the Democratic Foundation of Orange County, a group of lawyers and business people who pay $1,000 annual dues for membership. Asked at the Hilton Irvine luncheon if she would run for Senate, she pointed out the fundraising envelopes on the tables.

“You can contribute today and if you contribute, it will get us a little closer to that point,” she said.

Fundraising could prove key. Harris, who was the first out of the gates when she declared her candidacy in January, had raised $2.5 million through March 31. Sanchez had $540,000 in her House campaign account, which she can transfer to a Senate campaign account.

The only major declared Republican candidate, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of San Diego, had raised $12,000.

Democrats’ 15-percentage point edge in the state’s voter registration makes a GOP victory a long shot. Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles are also considering bids.

In her speech to the 40 people on hand for Monday’s luncheon, Sanchez gave a quick review of Orange County projects she’s been involved with, then discussed at length her work as the second-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and as a member of the Homeland Security Commission.

In focusing on issues of interest throughout the state, the 10-term congresswoman noted that she opposed U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act, which increased the government’s ability to spy on U.S. citizens. She also emphasized the need to be prudent with defense spending.

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