Capitol Alert

Loretta Sanchez gets her first big Republican endorsement

Democrat Loretta Sanchez’s gambit to attract dissident Republicans to her U.S. Senate campaign received a shot of encouragement Wednesday with the endorsement of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Riordan, a retired Republican businessman who led the city though the tumultuous 1990s, described Sanchez, who is competing against Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, as tough and unafraid to take a stand on important issues, touting her as an “independent thinker and a proven leader.”

“Loretta knows how to work with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents,” Riordan said in a statement.

He went on to cite her vote against the Iraq War despite being under “extreme pressure.”

The endorsement, Sanchez’s first from a major California Republican, buttresses an argument made by her campaign that she will be the favorite of GOP voters forced to choose between Democrats in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sanchez, for nearly two decades a member of Congress, won the Orange County seat in a upset over former GOP Rep. Bob Dornan, a social conservative. Over the years, she’s staked out a socially progressive record while maintaining her Blue Dog Democrat credentials.

Harris was overwhelmingly endorsed by the California Democratic Party and has vowed to build on Boxer’s record on environmental and social justice issues.

Without overtures to Republicans, Harris maintains a healthy lead over Sanchez in general election polling, suggesting the underdog will have to coalesce support of independents and Republicans willing to vote for a Democrat to build a winning coalition ahead of the Nov. 8 runoff election.

In announcing his endorsement, Sanchez stressed her nonpartisan bona fides and offered her “tremendous respect” for Riordan’s public service record.

“Coming from a working-class family,” Sanchez said, “I know that nothing pulls people out of poverty more effectively than a good-paying job.

“And, as U.S. Senator, I will work with leaders across the aisle, business and labor leaders, and workers to strengthen our economy so that more Californians may have economic security.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago