October 13, 2010 | 7:00pm
You might have thought Lindsay Lohan was in town.
More than 30 reporters--including at least two from Los Angeles television stations--packed into the KOCE-TV studio in Huntington Beach late this afternoon to watch Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez debate her November challenger, Republican state Assemblyman Van Tran.
The two candidates offered each other fake smiles and insincere handshakes while trading jabs over style and substance.
Sanchez's campaign declared their candidate the winner, but in my opinion Tran, a first generation Vietnamese immigrant who often struggles with English, did what he needed to do to advance his campaign in what is expected to be Orange County's closest congressional election.
Sanchez and Tran prepare to debate today
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
A calm, confident Tran tied Sanchez to big federal deficits, uncontrolled federal spending, President Barack Obama, Obamacare, high taxes, a poor economy and no progress on illegal immigration. Time after time, he labeled Sanchez as someone more concerned about issuing press releases than winning real accomplishments. He also mocked her use of a teleprompter to read her opening and closing statements, saying that after 14 years in Congress Sanchez should be able to speak without notes to local voters. He said Sanchez's efforts to assist pro-Democracy forces in Vietnam had backfired because she isn't really committed to the issue. He promised he'd do everything he can to aid small businesses. Tran even employed a Ronald Reagan line, telling the congresswoman, "there you go again," at least twice.
For her part, a vivacious Sanchez belittled Tran's service in the state assembly by calling him "a career Sacramento politician," who does nothing for the working class that dominates the 47th Congressional District, fights against food safety regulations, ignores the elderly's need for lower cost prescriptions and is clueless about helping solving budget crises or improving educational standards. She called herself a job creator and said she'd brought "a lot" of federal money into the district for transportation projects. If Tran wanted to mention Obama's name--and he did repeatedly, Sanchez was determined to align herself with ex-President Bill Clinton, who will campaign for her in Santa Ana on Friday.
In a post-debate press conference, Sanchez disputed Tran's attempts to make himself the best candidate for Vietnamese Americans who live in the district.
"I love the Vietnamese community," she said. "We have a great relationship."
Tran's view of his performance? "I'm very, very happy," he said. His only regret? He can't get Sanchez to debate three more times before the election.
Cecilia Iglesias, an independent candidate on the ballot, was not invited to participate in the debate.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly