Mayor Julian Castro
Mayor Julian Castro

Did Julian Castro's DNC Convention Speech Signal The Decline of OC's Loretta Sanchez?

Just four years ago, Loretta Sanchez--the veteran, Democrat congresswoman from Anaheim--repeatedly won significant national network TV attention on the arm of Hilary Clinton in the Democratic Party presidential primaries.

Part of that focus happened when Sanchez continued to stridently advocate for Clinton even after it was clear the former first lady had no chance to win the nomination.

Given that fact, it's not surprising that Orange County's lone Democrat in Congress has played no major role in President Barack Obama's North Carolina convention or in his campaign.

Despite a Hollywood gossip website once branding her "The Paris Hilton of Washington," the senior female member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Armed Services Committee has real legislative accomplishments that have nothing to do with fashion designs or the latest hot night club.

Yet, after last night, it's fair to ask: Is Sanchez's national political star fading?

Julian Castro, San Antonio's incredibly popular mayor, became the first Latino to give a prime-time, keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention and undoubtedly rose in party stature.

Questions may always linger about Sanchez--a Chapman University graduate who first won election by dropping her Anglo married last name and switching from Republican to Democrat--but the 37-year-old Stanford/Harvard-trained Castro appears to be an articulate, unapologetic progressive with a potentially limitless future.

Ironically, both Sanchez and Castro have impressive family stories of rising from the depths of poverty. Unfortunately for the congresswoman, she has never been able to orally relay her tale in ways that awe audiences. The mayor, who won re-election in 2011 with a mere 82 percent of the vote, obviously has no trouble connecting with crowds.

Sanchez can't feel too bad. Castro also easily outshines constantly stuttering Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former California State Assembly boss John A. Perez--who is affable but largely unknown--and Orange County state Senator Lou Correa, who--like Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido--may be more popular in Republican business circles than among progressive party activists. 

Not everyone is counting the 52-year-old Sanchez out. This week, the Houston Chronicle named her to a flattering list that includes Castro and his Texas assemblyman brother Joaquin: "Top 20 Latino Democrats to watch over the next 20 years." The post touts Sanchez's close ties to Washington power broker Nancy Pelosi, but didn't mention her unsatisfied desire to win the governor's mansion in Sacramento.

There is one scenario sure to put Sanchez back in the limelight. If Hilary Clinton runs for president in 2016 and wins, look for the Blue Dog Democrat to possibly capture a cabinet post or other prominent DC job. The Clintons are exceptionally loyal to their backers.

Fading national star or not at the moment, Sanchez is a local heavyweight, who consistently brings loads of Homeland Security money to the region. Republicans love to mock her as an airhead, but she has crushed eight consecutive GOP opponents in a district that includes Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton and Garden Grove. Next up in the November congressional election: conservative businessman Jerry Hayden.

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