- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

LOS ANGELES Politicians said when they drew California's new 39th Congressional District that there was no way a Democrat could lose it, and Linda Sanchez may be the ultimate proof.
She is poised to make history in November by winning the seat to represent Los Angeles County. A victory for both her and her sister, two-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County, would make them the first sister act in the U.S. House.
It would be a victory that Linda, the younger sister, would have pulled off over the objections of some of her district's most prominent Democratic leaders.
Although she managed to eke out a narrow win in a crowded, nasty primary race, she also came away with a long list of enemies who said they would rather vote Republican or not at all than support her.
"She infuriated everybody," said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. "She went out with a horribly negative campaign from the get-go. She wasn't really known her sister was known, but she wasn't so she had to give it her all, and maybe she went too far."
That kind of analysis has provided a ray of hope for Tim Escobar, the Republican candidate, who normally wouldn't have a chance in a district with a registration of 55 percent Democrat to 28 percent Republican.
Hoping to take advantage of his foe's missteps, Mr. Escobar, 35, is busily collecting endorsements and support from a string of local leaders who otherwise would vote Democratic.
"There's a very large anti-Linda sentiment here," said Mr. Escobar, who works as a financial analyst. "She really beat up a lot of people who were well-liked. Even people who have voted Democratic all their lives are telling me, 'I'm going to call all my friends and tell them to support you.'"
That includes David Peters, a former La Mirada mayor who is chairman of the political science department at Biola University.
"You can count on one hand and still have fingers left over the number of times I've voted for a Republican," he said.
"But I think the Democrats were really put off by her," Mr. Peters said. "Mr. Escobar is truly a local person. Everything I've seen of him is very positive, and it's made it possible for me to say I'd step up."
Her critics depict Linda Sanchez as a female version of Robert Redford's character in "The Candidate," an inexperienced neophyte who manages to defeat more qualified rivals as a result of the off-screen maneuvering of political insiders in this case, her sister Loretta.
Thanks to Loretta, foes say, the 32-year-old Linda, a lawyer who had never run for elective office, amassed a war chest that dwarfed those of her rivals. With big donations from unions and Emily's List, she flooded homes with mailers and a Spanish-language cable TV ad that featured a plea from her mother asking voters to send her daughters to Congress.
"If there were no Loretta, there would be no Linda," Mr. Regalado said.
Linda Sanchez also came under fire for carpetbagging after moving to the district from Orange County less than two years ago. She changed her name from her married name, Valentine, back to Sanchez in what her foes called a cynical attempt to appeal to the 61 percent Hispanic district.
"Attack ads helped put a woefully inexperienced candidate, Linda Sanchez, ahead of several worthy ones in the race for U.S. Congress in the 39th District," the Long Beach Press Telegraph said in a March 15 editorial.
"Her false attacks on front-runners [Southgate Mayor] Hector De La Torre and [state assemblywoman] Sally Havice worked, reinforcing what political advisors know well: Enough money and a total lack of scruples can trounce experience and integrity."
Her spokesman, Bill Wachob of the Campaign Group in San Diego, who also handles Loretta's media work, called the accusations "sour grapes." He noted that Linda Sanchez served as Orange County's top labor official.
The attacks against Mr. De La Torre, whom Mrs. Sanchez accused of corruption, were "fair," Mr. Wachob said.


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