Don’t expect Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to back up anytime soon.
It’s not as if she can.
Sanchez, a ten-term Democratic U.S. Rep. from central Orange County, this weekend drew significant fire on social media and in media coverage for insensitive racial remarks regarding Native Americans she uttered at the state Democratic Party convention in Anaheim.
She apologized for the remarks, and on Sunday stood steadfast amidst intensifying questions from reporters about whether she’d back out of the U.S. Senate race against frontrunner, Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Sanchez keeps telling reporters she’s solely focused on the Senate.
She has to be.
There’s been intense quiet jockeying over Sanchez’s congressional seat for years.
All that intensified in the past few weeks as Sanchez indicated she would run for Senate.
Once she announced, it triggered an ongoing version of political musical chairs that is still impacting other down-ballot races for 2016 like a First District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Former state Sen. Lou Correa – a powerhouse who’s represented the area as a county supervisor, a state assemblyman and the state senator for 16 years – was the first out of the gate this week, announcing his intent to run for Congress.
Correa issued a release announcing that he was running last Thursday, the same day as Sanchez’s Senate announcement, and he was so close to Sanchez during her news conference at the Santa Ana train depot, he looked like he was a member of her family.
Sanchez told me last week she is not endorsing in the race to fill her congressional seat and will stay focused on an aggressive run for the Senate.
And while Correa sported an ear-to-ear grin last week next to Sanchez, he told me he’s also ready to run an aggressive race for Congress and that’s why he wasn’t wasting any time in coming out fast and hard.
He’s got to know there will be others. His early announcement is a message that he’s ready for them.
Correa just came off a stinging 43-vote loss to Supervisor Andrew Do this past February to fill out the remainder of former County Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s term given her election last November to the state senate.
Nguyen herself has been mentioned as a potential for Sanchez’s congressional seat but with two young sons, the travel requirements to D.C. may prove too much at this time, some insiders speculate.
The LA Times recently published a great analysis showing how Correa basically got out hustled in communicating with voters by the machine built by Nguyen and Do.
I don’t think he’s ready to concede that a second time.
Remember, Correa lost in 1996 his first run for state assembly by 93 votes. He came back two years later and crushed his opponent.
Expect Correa to stay aggressive and busy.
Correa and Do were expected to clash again in November 2016.
Yet with Correa out of the First District County Supervisors’ race, that leaves Do in a strong position as the incumbent, amidst a crowd of undeclared challengers who don’t have much money.
That’s if Do doesn’t decide to jump into the congressional race himself. He did just beat Correa.
Santa Ana City Councilman Vince Sarmiento is also a name I’ve heard for some time as a potential candidate for county supervisor.
And another possibility that might seem odd on its face but could blossom is Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido.
Last week, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission concluded an investigation into a very questionable property swap involving Pulido by fining him $13,000 – effectively clearing the way should he choose to move up politically to the board of supervisors.
If anything, the FPPC action is a testament to Pulido’s political skills.
With an entire city council firing away at him over the past few years, Pulido has successfully navigated investigations involving the local district attorney, the state’s campaign watchdog agency, the FBI and the IRS.
And he’s still standing.
This Tuesday night, Pulido will be granting the retiring general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, Nick Berardino, a special award for his service to the community.
While Berardino certainly deserves the accolades after 40 years in public service, the timing of the award works well to position Pulido should he seek support from OCEA in any upcoming election.
Pulido would be more likely than Correa to embrace the rough and tumble world of Little Saigon’s dark backroom politics and dealmaking – something a few insiders have already mentioned.
In fact, the on-again, off-again political alliance between Pulido and Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michelle Martinez also could provide some insights into the future of the congressional race.
Given that voters have backed a Latina for that congressional seat over the past two decades, and Hillary Clinton is a seeming lock at the top of a Democratic ticket that also could include Sanchez, a Latina could stand to do well in the 46th Congressional District.
Keep an eye on Martinez, who is suddenly on friendly terms with Pulido — who remember used those stellar political skills and contacts to help fundraise for her failed assembly bid back in 2012. That was the last time they were friends.
Also keep an eye on Angelica Amezcua, a Latina who virtually didn’t even campaign in 2012 and was elected to the Santa Ana city council. There’s also former City Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez, who is now serving on the latest electoral placeholder — the Rancho Santiago Community College District.
Former State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva was gearing up to challenge Assemblywoman Young Kim (who beat Quirk Silva last November) but she also could take a look at the congressional option.
Beyond the Santa Ana and Latina Democrat angle, don’t’ forget the district includes a lot of Anaheim…ie: a white candidate.
State Assemblyman Tom Daly handily beat Julio Perez in his first run for state office back in 2012 after spending nearly two decades as clerk recorder, which means every person with any kind of real estate interest has seen his name a million times. Before that, Daly was mayor of Anaheim.
Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman is another name I’ve heard.
There were reports that Brandman was going to send out a press release the morning of Sanchez’s announcement but Correa came out first.
Since then, there’s been no public word from Brandman.
I guess Sanchez could still just forget the whole Senate thing and just refile for her congressional seat.
A year and a half in politics is, after all, more than an eternity.
But this is the OC, where scandal does nothing to candidates.
Despite our sheriff going down on corruption charges back in 2008, our politicos are seemingly bulletproof, shameless and scrappy.
Brandman, after all, was the guy who put together a consultant report to the OC clerk recorder (his mentor, Daley) largely lifted from Wikipedia, got caught and still was paid $25,000.
Alvarez attacked a local Jewish businessman from her city council dais, comparing him to Hitler.
Now, both are mentioned as viable congressional candidates.
Years ago, when we first launched Voice of OC and Pulido still talked to us occasionally, he took me for a tour of Santa Ana in his taxpayer-funded Toyota Prius.
Toward the end of the ride, I asked him, so what makes you different than these other politicians? What has given you the ability to last so long?
Pulido looked straight at me from the drivers seat, cold as a dead body and fired right back what might be considered the campaign mantra for OC politicians.
“I never give up.”