UPDATE: The Courage Campaign, where I work as Public Policy Director, is asking our members this morning to call Loretta Sanchez and ask her to vote “yes” on the bill. OFA is also organizing an 11AM rally at Loretta Sanchez’s Santa Ana campaign office – click here for details.
Back in 1996, when I was still shedding my youthful Orange County conservatism, I walked a few precincts in Garden Grove and Anaheim for Loretta Sanchez. That fall, she won by about 900 votes, a big upset produced through her hard work and clear desire to represent her constituents and their needs.
Since then she’s seen off several challengers, and won re-election by increasing margins. This year, however, she faces a strong Republican challenger in Assemblymember Van Tran. Tran has built an impressive electoral machine in west-central Orange County, and while most observers don’t think he will win, Sanchez is certainly worried.
When facing such a challenger, you would think that one of the ways you’d defend yourself is to ensure your base is happy, and that you are doing all you can do to motivate your base and your constituents to vote for you. Particularly by addressing one of your constituents’ primary needs, which is health care.
That’s why it is simply baffling, even bizarre, to read this report from Roll Call (via David Dayen’s FDL whip count):
As their whip efforts narrow to just a handful of Members, House Democratic leaders are facing an unlikely problem vote: Rep. Loretta Sanchez.
Sanchez was nowhere to be found on Saturday – she was in Florida on a fundraising jaunt, two Democratic sources said – and while leaders expected her to return for the Sunday vote on final passage, they weren’t assured. What’s more, leaders now list the Orange County Democrat as a “no” vote….
Sanchez this week told the Orange County Register that she needs to be satisfied that the health care overhaul is affordable. “The Senate bill is a bad bill,” she told the paper.
Loretta Sanchez is apparently making the same mistake several other Democrats are poised to make, which is assuming that voting “no” on the health care bill is anything other than guaranteeing their own defeat in November.
Here’s why. If Sanchez votes yes, then she gives her constituents and her base a good reason to care about her re-election. They’ll be motivated to ensure that she sees off Van Tran, a right-winger in the classic Orange County tradition, to defend someone who made the right choice on health care. Tran would still present a challenge, but Sanchez would be able to mobilize an army of volunteers and donors to help defend against it.
But if Sanchez votes no, then she has nothing to fall back on. Her base would desert her. Volunteers would stay home, and small donors would find a more useful purpose for their money. Her pleas for support against Van Tran would fall on deaf ears. Her constituents would be forced to choose between two candidates who have shown no willingness to do anything for them on health care – one of whom had just betrayed them in Congress.
A “yes” vote gives Sanchez a fighting chance at victory. A “no” vote seals her doom.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Loretta Sanchez, stemming from that 1996 campaign. It pains me to see her throw 14 years of service down the drain like this. But if she votes “no,” she’s on her own, and nobody will save her from Van Tran and an Orange County Republican Party determined to avenge one of their most stinging and significant defeats they’ve ever suffered.