Loretta Sanchez

Rep. Loretta Sanchez is trailing Democratic rival Kamala Harris in her bid for the U.S. Senate, polls show. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Phil Willon
October 29, 2015

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the Democrat famous for bumping ultra-conservative GOP Rep. Robert “B-1 Bob” Dornan from office in Orange County two decades ago, may need a little Republican love next year.

That’s among the challenges Sanchez faces in her bid for the U.S. Senate against main Democratic rival Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, and a field of less-known Republicans and other candidates.

To survive the state’s top-two primary election in June, Sanchez needs two of her biggest bases of political support, Southern Californians and Latinos, to defy their historically lackluster turnout at the polls, analysts say. Support from California’s growing group of independents and moderates — Republican moderates, in particular — may also be essential.

Republican consultant Mike Madrid said that’s because Latinos running statewide have traditionally had difficulty attracting broad support from “white, old, rich Bernie Sanders progressives” living along California’s coast, where much of the population is.

“For the past 20 years, she, along with other Latino politicians, have been beating on Republicans like a piñata. Now she needs their votes,” Madrid said. “It will be fascinating to watch.”
For the past 20 years, she, along with other Latino politicians, have been beating on Republicans like a piñata. Now she needs their votes. – Mike Madrid, Republican consultant

Crafting a campaign that appeals to this patchwork of voters, many with divergent views on taxes, immigration and other divisive issues, could be difficult. But Madrid said Latinos and moderate Republicans do align on certain issues: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class and improving schools with such actions as weeding out bad teachers and embracing charters.

“That’s a winning combination for Latino candidates statewide,” Madrid said.

Only the top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election. Harris remains the presumptive front-runner, leading Sanchez by double digits in recent opinion polls.

Harris also has raised more money and won the adulation of establishment Democrats. In addition, she hails from the Bay Area, envied for its high voter turnout. California’s two senators, governor and five of the seven other statewide officeholders have roots in that solidly Democratic slice of Northern California.

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