Senate hopeful Loretta Sanchez plies the constituencies at convention

U.S. Senate hopeful Loretta Sanchez, a House member from Santa Ana, put her freewheeling campaign style on vivid display Saturday as she tried to round up support at a gathering of fellow Democrats in the heart of her Orange County congressional district.

Befitting a newly announced underdog candidate, she quickly went on the attack against her chief rival, Democratic state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris as she worked the crowd at the state Democratic Party’s annual convention in Anaheim.

"First and foremost, she's never been a legislator, so she has no legislative experience," Sanchez said of Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney. "Secondly she has no foreign relations, military, homeland-security experience. She doesn't know … the process of how to get things done in Washington, D.C."

Harris' campaign spokesman Nathan Click hinted that the attorney general would cast Sanchez’s service in Congress as a liability and repeated a previous statement that she’s looking forward to a lively discussion “about who is best equipped to change the culture of dysfunction in Washington.”

Sanchez, who announced her Senate candidacy Thursday, spent the morning dashing from room to room at the Anaheim Convention Center, trying to score points with a gamut of party constituencies.

Over and over, she recalled having bounced conservative Republican Bob Dornan from the House in 1996, a major upset in the GOP’s Orange County stronghold.

"We ran against a guy named B-1 Bob Dornan, and we took it away, and we gave the power to the people," Sanchez told her party's rural caucus before reminiscing about fishing and biking trips that reflect her "love for the outdoors."

"So you get a little flavor of who I am," she concluded with a sly grin, "we're having margaritas and mambo at 4 p.m. Come on by."

On a visit to the state party's LGBT Caucus, Sanchez reminded the crowd of incendiary remarks by Dornan and others about gay men and lesbians. She described herself as the first member of Congress to meet with transgender advocates.

"We have been in the forefront in the Congress working on everybody's rights – especially the LGBT community," she said.

Across the hall, where Filipino Americans were meeting, Sanchez mentioned her affinity for ballroom dancing, especially the foxtrot, then bemoaned rebel insurgencies in the Philippines.

At the environmental caucus, Sanchez recalled fighting in the 1990s to limit environmental harm caused by construction of the Highway 73 toll road in Orange County. And outside the convention hall, she weighed in on President Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

"As you know probably, my specialty in the Congress is nuclear proliferation and nonproliferation," she told reporters. "I've been sitting in that Situation Room in the White House dealing with this issue for a while now." If the final Iran deal is good, she said, "Congress will be fine with it."

Nearby, a few dozen construction workers were assembled for a protest against Obama's proposed "fast-track" authority to negotiate a Pacific trade pact.

"Where are my carpenters?" she hollered toward the line of men in orange vests. She walked the line in heels, high-fiving construction workers as she went, then led a chant: "No fast track!"

Sanchez recalled telling former President Clinton when he sought similar trade negotiating authority: "Not on your life."

"I said no to President Clinton," she said. "I said no to President Bush. And you know what? I say no to President Obama."