Stealth Loretta

Lorretta Sanchez has been widely cast as the victim in the latest controversy to surround her since the voters of Garden Grove elected her to Congress in 1996. People rather reflexively feel sorry for a woman who says somebody just called her a "whore"—especially in this case, when she says it was a fellow congressman, Joe Baca (D-Rialto) . . . even if he does deny it.

But what if, rather than being the suffering centerpiece to this latest embarrassment to the Democratic Party, Sanchez instead was its orchestrator? What if this was just the latest in a string of attempts by Sanchez to humiliate the Democrats, as part of a nefarious conspiracy to destroy the party from within? What if the woman who brought down Bob Dornan—the congressman they called B-1 Bob—was actually a piece of Republican weaponry, herself . . . Stealth Loretta, maybe?

Hmmmmm. It sounds crazy, sure. Sanchez is typically attacked by today's conservative commentators as a far-left congresswoman. Whether or not Baca really did refer to her as a "whore," she's been called plenty of other unflattering names over the years—"dim," "a tart," "an embarrassment to Orange County," "a national embarrassment" . . . even "baby-killer," for being a pro-choice Catholic.

But many people forget that shortly before Sanchez launched her 1996 campaign against B-1 Bob, she was a Republican, too—with Wall Street credentials and strong ties to county law enforcement.

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Her parents were conservative Republicans, too. True, hers was also a strong union family; little sister Linda was even a union local president before being elected to Congress, herself. But it boggles logic that Loretta could ascend from a political career that consisted of getting trounced in a race for an Anaheim City Council seat to suddenly becoming the Democratic Party's congressional nominee.

Let's go back to that first congressional bid. As reported here, Sanchez hired a convicted felon to run her campaign. Heck, even Nixon's aides didn't commit their felonies until after joining his administration.

Could it be that Lorretta Sanchez appeared in the congressional race as a stealth candidate—planted there by the Orange County Republican Party in an attempt to spread dissenting voters across several candidates so that the Republican bloc could win? It wouldn't have been the first time. In fact, the local GOP has run stealth candidates in three elections we know of, including when it infamously planted decoys in state assembly races eventually won by Curt Pringle, who is now Anaheim's mayor, and Scott Baugh, who is now the OC GOP chairman.

Is it possible that the party's stealth candidate actually won one for a change? Maybe that Republican bloc wasn't as solid in B-1 Bob's former central OC stronghold as the GOP strategists had thought. Couple that with some illegal votes for Sanchez and . . . yes, yes—it most certainly is possible!

And if it did go down that way, the Republicans suddenly found themselves with a spy behind enemy lines—a mole working against the Democrats from the inside. Delicious!

They must have loved it, because look at what happened two years later, when Sanchez faced Dornan again. The GOP officially backed a different loser in the 1998 primary, and even when B-1 Bob won the nomination—and famously called Sanchez a "serial adulterer" at the election night party—the Republican hierarchy never was enthusiastic about his candidacy.

Sounds almost sci-fi, but if you don't believe that Sanchez is crapping on the Democrats from within, then how do you explain some of the stuff that's happened since her election?

• In 1996, when Sanchez went to Congress, rumors were swirling that she was having an affair with her political mentor, Tom Daly—who at the time was the mayor of Anaheim and the highest-profile Democrat in the county. Where's Daly now? That's hard to say. He's the county's clerk-recorder, but who the hell knows where his office is?

• In 2000, Al Gore was cruising toward the presidency so easily that no amount of dead voters, hanging chads or illegally-denied black votes could stop him. Then his co-chairman, Sanchez, tried to hold a Congressional Hispanic Caucus fundraiser for Gore at the Playboy Mansion during the Democratic National Convention. Many cartoons of the day had Sanchez dolled up like a Playboy bunny. Facing a solid rebuke from Democratic leaders already smarting from the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, Sanchez at first refused to move the event, but finally canceled it to preserve her speaking slot at the convention. But the damage had been done. The move delivered just enough of a chink in Gore's robotic armor that the U.S. Supreme Court was able to deem George W. Bush the winner of the election, regardless of how many fewer popular votes Dubya received.

• Uhh, have you ever seen her speak? Watch her on C-SPAN some time.

• Sanchez is a longtime member of the Blue Dog Democrats, the fiscally conservative wing of the party that is generally composed of Southerners. The Blue Dogs formed in 1994—the same year as the GOP's "Contract with America," and they have always acted in a bipartisan way. Why dogs? Because they roll over.

• Sanchez sides with conservatives on amending the Constitution to outlaw flag desecration.

• Sanchez says hell yes to prosecuting kids as adults.

• The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange is chumsy with the Orange County GOP. The diocese has publicly criticized Sanchez for supporting a woman's right to choose. Sanchez has responded by honoring the OC diocese on the House floor. The OC GOP has responded by never running a credible candidate against her.

• When it was disclosed her campaign received $12,000 over 2001 to 2003 from the same Kentucky technology executive who admitted bribing disgraced Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), Sanchez essentially twirled her hair and acted coy.

• During the 2003 gubernatorial recall campaign, Sanchez was the first high-level Democrat to break from the strategy of supporting Gray Davis to the end, suggesting that she would enter the race unless her party put up a viable nominee. Instead, the party put up Cruz Bustamante. Hail, Terminator!

• She got an honorary doctorate from William Howard Taft University. Yes, President Taft was a progressive—a progressive Republican!

• As it became apparent Democrats would win control of the House and possibly the Senate in last November's election, Sanchez found herself in line to chair the Homeland Security Committee. The fact that a politician who is "not serious" would be elevated to such a highly important post terrified at least one political commentator. UC Irvine political science professor (and sometime Weekly contributor) Mark Petracca made the remark on a live local television program that had invited him to represent the Democraticside of the aisle. (Republicans sitting to Petracca's right were elated.)

• The House leadership ultimately bypassed Sanchez for the Homeland Security Committee, giving it instead to the nutbusting Rep. Jane Harman (D-Redondo Beach); Sanchez got the gavel of the newly formed Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, which puts her in charge of conservative nutjobs' 700-mile border fence.

• Every Yule season, the divorced Sanchez sends out Christmas cards that feature her in suggestive clothing and poses. Last Christmas, a photo showed her—and lots of her legs—with her cat, Gretzky, on her lap. The card's big headline commanded, "Pet the cat." Outrage ensued.

• Last month, as President Bush entered the House of Representatives to give his State of the Union speech, Sanchez smooshed herself against a railing in her bright blue dress, the better to get TV time—but even better, to get Bush's attention. It worked. Bush smiled, shook her hand and said, "Hola, chica." Sanchez replied, "Hello, George." Asked later about the encounter, Sanchez told the Orange County Business Journal's Rick Reiff, "That's the kind of relationship we have. . . . Usually we hug and kiss. He knows the Latino thing."

• Sanchez's best friend in the House is Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs). She also counts among her pals Dubya's former ambassador to Spain, the right-wing, anti-legalimmigrant George Argyros!

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It'll be interesting to see how much more damage Sanchez can inflict on Democrats between now and 2010, when she'll supposedly run for governor of California—if she does not succeed as Wesley Clarke's running mate for the Democratic nomination in '08, as has also been speculated.


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