Everywhere you look, the world of politics swirls with controversy and opposing view points, whether it’s left v. right, Republican v. Democrat or Tea Party v. Occupy Wall Street.
None of this is new, however, for Santa Ana, California area Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Sanchez has battled against opposing outside forces throughout her career, and, in a least one early example, herself. Rep. Sanchez started her career as a Republican, running unsuccessfully in 1994 for Anaheim City Council, before switching to become a Democrat.
Undaunted by losing, in 1996 Sanchez went after a big job and a big target: Former Congressman Bob Dornan, a staunch, pro-life conservative who, to the ire of the district’s heavily Hispanic population, an advocate for proof of citizenship in order to vote, a position he emphasized in court after Sanchez beat him by less than 1,000 votes. Dornan did not prevail in court.
Since then Cong. Sanchez has represented an ever-changing district (currently California’s 47th Congressional District), but one which has always had its divisions. The district’s large (65%) Hispanic population is the largest in Orange County; its slight Democratic majority is unmatched elsewhere in the County as well.
So Cong. Sanchez knows what it’s like to be pulled in different directions, yet she has survived in Congress for 14 years. How this 51-year-old former financial analyst kept herself in the game might provide a road map for Democrats hoping to regain the House in 2012.
With a clever combination of tenacity and flexibility, Sanchez has stayed in office by being both tough and, at the same time, by not being ideologically rigid. Nowhere is this better illustrated in the fact that Sanchez is a member of the Blue Dog Democratic Coalition, a group typically made up of conservative Southern male politicians.
But Cong. Sanchez also faced a well-financed Republican opponent in 2010. Though she won the election by a comfortable margin, her margin of victory was much lower than it had been in years.
The lesson for politicians everywhere—being pulled in different directions doesn’t mean you yourself will be pulled down, but life in 21st century politics requires a ferocious helping of tenacity.