Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | While the nation largely opted for Republicans for the House of Representatives, central Orange County went the other way.

By early Wednesday, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez was well ahead of Republican State Assemblyman Van Tran, leading 51 percent to 42 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Sanchez declared victory, giving credit to a large turnout by labor volunteers in the streets as well as the Latino and Vietnamese community.

“I think the whole community came together and worked very hard,” Sanchez said.

“The Latino community also woke up and figured out it was important for them to hold the seat,” Sanchez said. “And the Vietnamese community, they didn’t all vote for Van Tran. I think that shows we’ve worked very hard with them for the last 14 years.”

Tran wasn’t willing to concede defeat by the early morning, saying, “The election is not over yet.”

Tran said he was proud of the campaign he ran, saying it was disciplined and nimble and took advantages of Sanchez’s weaknesses in a very Republican year.

Yet he noted that Sanchez had an inherent fundraising advantage and acknowledged that Democrats’ voter registration drives had given them a 16-point voter registration advantage. Both made a huge difference, he said.

Tran was still looking at the prospect that late absentee ballots along with provisionals will help him make up ground because it’s an area that his campaigns have always excelled at.

“The question is whether we can catch up,” Tran said.

Sanchez focused her campaign as a lawmaker who’s been able to deliver for her district, whether it was for school funding or for freeway widening. She also touted her role as a senior military committee leader in Congress, having traveled frequently to Iraq and Afghanistan.

She connected Tran to the failed Sacramento budget process and characterized Tran’s policies as too right-wing for the 47th Congressional District.

It was Sanchez’s toughest re-election effort since she first appeared on Orange County’s political scene in 1996, when she beat one of the most colorful conservatives, Rep. Bob Dornan.

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