Venturing far outside her Orange County district, Rep. Loretta Sanchez gave a passionate, campaign-style talk here Friday evening, offering the strongest indication yet that she intends to enter the contest to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Promising a decision within two weeks, Sanchez took aim at fellow Democrat and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, the early front-runner in the Senate race. Sanchez criticized Harris for lacking federal experience and contrasted it with her own two decades in Congress.
“I believe we have experience that Kamala does not have,” Sanchez said of Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney.
“Look, in a very dangerous world, and a very scary world that we’re in, I’ve got 19 years of sitting on Armed Services and Homeland Security” committees, Sanchez continued. “In the Senate, (you) need somebody who already understands what’s going on. I don’t have any ramp-up. ... We can’t afford somebody who’s never – who doesn’t understand what’s going on in the world.”
With the California Democratic Party’s convention next month in Anaheim, and Harris expected to have a prime speaking slot, Sanchez predicted, “There’ll be action in my hometown, don’t worry.”
Her remarks, followed by a question-and-answer session, came during a cocktail-hour meet-and-greet at Don Ramon’s Mexican restaurant, organized by numerous Democratic Latino organizations in the Bay Area. In introductory comments, several attendees said they felt it was important that the field include a qualified Latino Democratic candidate.
In a portion of her remarks delivered in Spanish, Sanchez also noted that Harris cannot speak the language, arguing that the attorney general will not have the ability to understand or communicate with a significant share of the state’s population.
Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for Harris, countered the criticism in a statement Saturday.
“We are confident that voters will agree with the broad coalition of our strong and early supporters, from EMILY’s List, U.S. senators and members of our state’s congressional delegation, to law enforcement leaders and legendary figures like Dolores Huerta, that Attorney General Harris is the best candidate to succeed Barbara Boxer in the Senate,” Brokaw said.
Sanchez, of Santa Ana, told of her Mexican immigrant parents before going through a list of policy priorities, from education and health care, to housing, the military and fighting terrorism. The crowd of about 150 chanted and broke into applause as Sanchez launched into her animated delivery.
“I do war and terror,” she said of her committee posts. “Mostly, I just terrorize Republicans,” she added with a wide smile.
The hottest topic of the evening was the Senate race, which despite decades of pent-up ambitions in the state has yet to become competitive. Along with Sanchez, Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles also are weighing candidacies. Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, is the only declared Republican contender.
On Monday, Harris announced raising $2.5 million for her campaign since mid-January.
Sanchez, who had nearly $400,000 as of the last reporting period, said she was undaunted by Harris’ numbers.
“If I do it, I get an entire year to go around and meet the people of California,” she said. “I’m excited about doing that.”
Editor’s note: This post was updated to correct Sanchez’s cash on hand total.
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.