Accompanied by a decent-sized Secret Service detail, Bill Clinton came to Orange County this afternoon to offer advice.
The 42nd president of the United States told several hundred people (and at least 60 reporters) gathered under a cloudy sky and outside Santa Ana's historic old red courthouse that local voters need to re-elect Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the Anaheim Democrat.
But Clinton didn't come to bad mouth Sanchez's opponent, Republican state Assemblyman Van Tran from Little Saigon.
He did mock Tran's conservative stances in Sacramento--especially that he couldn't bring himself to support a law against putting lead in candy, but said he respects Tran's life story as a successful post-war immigrant from South Vietnam.
According to Clinton, Sanchez is on the "right" side of issues ranging from Wall Street regulations to the economy, education and taxes.
About a half a dozen, vocal Tran supporters waved signs in protest. But, oddly, the rabidly anti-abortion, anti-gay crowd that usually shows up at Democratic events in OC was absent. Perhaps there was a sale of polyester shirts and underwear at Sears.
Regardless, Sanchez clearly enjoyed the strong endorsement from Clinton, who called her his longtime friend.
George Andrews, Tran's campaign spokesman who attended the event, told me, "It shows poor judgment on President Clinton's part to actively campaign for Sanchez when she is trying to divide communities by race."
Andrews was referring to a comment the congresswoman made weeks ago in Spanish about Vietnamese trying to take her seat in Congress. The flub, which made national news, was first discovered by my OC Weekly colleague Gustavo Arellano. Later, Sanchez apologized, saying that she didn't mean the local Vietnamese community as a whole but rather those conservative Republican Vietnamese aligned with Tran.
But the remark undoubtedly aided Tran's campaign, which polling shows is almost even in pre-election support.
A Tran victory might not only aid the GOP in regaining control of Congress but would make OC's entire congressional delegation Republican.
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Other speakers at the Clinton event included state Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Barbaro.
Tomorrow, Sarah Palin--a likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate--visits Anaheim, in part, to back Tran's campaign.
Note: The usually, highly professional Secret Service detained the entire press corps in a caged area for almost 15 minutes following the conclusion of Clinton's remarks. While everyone else--the general public, including the homeless--roamed freely about the site, reporters trying to do follow-up interviews or race to file stories were trapped without prior notice inside a fence. I won't repeat what Norberto Santana, Jr. of the Voice of OC said at the time, but I shared his spicy sentiments. The federal agents didn't do their own dirty work. They had Sanchez campaign spokeswoman Caroline Hogan perform the task.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly