Sánchez chose not to run for re-election to the House in 2016, instead opting to run for the U.S. Senate race in California. She was defeated by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, 61.6% to 38.4%.
Sánchez was born in Lynwood, California, and graduated from Katella High School in Anaheim in 1978. Her father was a unionized machinist and her mother worked as a secretary. Her Mexican immigrant parents had seven children. She joined the United Food and Commercial Workers when she worked as an ice cream server in high school, and received a union scholarship to college. She received her undergraduate degree in Economics from Chapman College in Orange in 1982, obtained her MBA from American University in Washington, DC in 1984, and was a financial analyst for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton until entering the House. Sánchez describes herself as growing up a "shy, quiet girl" who did not speak English. She credits government with much of her success in public life.Committee on Armed Services
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces (Ranking Member)
Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Committee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security
Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Congressional Human Rights Caucus
International Conservation Caucus
In February 2006, Sánchez withdrew from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's political action committee, along with five other members, because the caucus chairman, Joe Baca, authorized political contributions to members of his family who were running for state and local offices in California.
Sánchez and other CHC members also claim that Baca was improperly elected chairman of the caucus in November 2006 because the vote failed to use secret ballots, as required in the group's bylaws. On January 31, 2007, Sanchez quit the CHC because she claimed that Baca repeatedly treated the group's female members with disrespect. Other female lawmakers have made the same complaint about Baca. In the election for caucus chairman, only one female member of the 23-member Caucus voted to support Baca's candidacy.
According to Sánchez, as well as Linda Sanchez (Loretta's sister), and Hilda Solis, Baca called Loretta Sánchez "a whore" while speaking to other lawmakers. Baca denied the charge. Politico.com reported that Sanchez claimed California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez heard the comment from Baca and repeated it to Sánchez, yet Núñez claimed not to recall any such comment. Sánchez, however, claimed after the article was published that she had never mentioned Núñez to Politico.com.
Sánchez has stated she is a "moderate" Democrat, but in 2009, Sanchez had a 'zero' approval rating from the American Conservative Union.
She represents a district in Orange County, long a bastion of suburban conservatism, and is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition; she reportedly voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8% of the time during the 111th Congress.
Sánchez is known for her interests in education, crime, economic development, and protections for senior citizens.
National Journal rated her votes in 2006 in three areas: Economic, Social, and Foreign. The ratings are: Economic = 71 liberal/28 conservative; Social = 80 liberal/19 conservative; Foreign = 70 liberal/28 conservative.
Sánchez staunchly opposed the Republicans' Head Start program overhaul in the 108th Congress, invoking her experience growing up poor and challenged by a speech impediment. During debate on the bill, she said:
"I know about these kids, because I am one of those kids...It hurts to hear you talk about how we are not successful, or how we are losers. But we are very successful. We have had a lot of successes with Head Start."
Sánchez has asserted that conservative Republicans are not committed to improving public education. When President Bush's 2003 budget proposal threatened to cut education grants, she responded:
"If he can run deficits for the military, then he can run deficits to educate our children."
Armed services, social issues, and labor
Sánchez is the second-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee. She is also a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, and the most senior woman on that committee. Loretta has fought to reform both the law and culture of the U.S. military relating to investigation of sexual crimes, prosecution of sex offenders and care of sexual assault victims. Her leadership contributed to a decision to examine the problem of sexual assault at the military service academies, which revealed that the problem was much more prevalent than previously thought. As a result, she led the fight to change sexual assault provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In early 2011, Sánchez introduced a bill requiring the United States Department of Homeland Security to issue rules governing searches and seizures of the laptops, cellphones, and other electronic devices of American citizens returning to the U.S. from abroad.
Sánchez is regarded as a liberal on social issues. She voted against a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and supports abortion rights. She also sought to reverse the ban on abortions at overseas military bases and installations. In August 2000, Sánchez refused to relocate a political fundraiser she had planned at the Playboy Mansion in California. As a result, Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew cancelled her scheduled speaking role at the Democratic National Convention. Sánchez's address was reinstated just before the convention, when she agreed to relocate her fundraiser to Universal Studios.
According to Congressional Quarterly, "In 2002, Sánchez voted against reviving fast-track procedures for congressional action on trade deals. And, coming from a district with one of the largest ethnically Vietnamese communities outside Vietnam, she voted against a trade agreement with Vietnam, saying that political and human rights conditions in that country needed improvement. Her outspokenness led the Hanoi regime to refuse to allow her into the country late in 2004 when she applied for an entry visa to meet with dissidents." By April 2006, Sánchez had been denied a visa to visit Vietnam four times by the country's officials. In honor of International Human Rights Day, she joined a bipartisan group of 11 House Members that issued a letter to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung calling for the release of two U.S. citizens arrested by the government of Vietnam.
On October 10, 2002, Sánchez was among the 133 members of the House who voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq, but she has voted in favor of every appropriation bill for the war in Iraq. She opposed the troop surge in February 2007. On March 7, 2007, Sanchez led a female congressional delegation to visit troops in Iraq. This was her third visit to Iraq.
Sánchez has a strong record on supporting human rights and is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Two major votes include voting yes in 2001 to keep the Cuba travel ban until political prisoners are released, but later voting in 2009 to lift the travel ban unilaterally, and yes to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of the early 1900s. She voted to implement the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007.
Sánchez has stated that she was briefly denied access to a United Airlines flight in October 2006 because her name appeared on a no-fly list set up after the September 11 attacks. Sánchez said she was instructed to check in with a United employee, who told her she was on the terrorist watch list. The employee asked her for identification.
In a December 2015 interview with Larry King, in response to his question about the threat of extremist groups within Islam, Sánchez suggested some experts estimate that "anywhere between 5 and 20 percent" of Muslims worldwide supported the creation of a Caliphate to overthrow the United States. Sanchez's comments, which came on the heels of both the recent Islamist terror attack in San Bernardino and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call to temporarily ban Muslim immigration to the United States, were criticized as contributing to Anti-Muslim sentiment. Sánchez explained that she was merely echoing President Obama's remarks in his December 6, 2015 Oval Office Address wherein he stated: "Extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse." She further noted that she has a well-known record of defending the civil liberties of Muslim groups and that she believed most Muslims "are actually with us" in fighting Radical Islam.
On September 13, 2016, the House Committee on Homeland Security unanimously approved two amendments authored by Sánchez to strengthen counterterrorism and cybersecurity programs.
The first bill, the Community Counterterrorism Preparedness Act, H.R. 5859, "establishes a grant program to help major metropolitan areas prepare for and respond to terror attacks that include active shooters." Sánchez's amendment requires that "unclassified threat information" be provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant applicants. According to Sánchez, "With this change, we not only provide needed funds to help regions prepare for attacks, we also give them critical tips and best practices to help them respond."
The second bill, the Cyber Preparedness Act of 2016, H.R. 5459, "clarifies that DHS grants for states and urban areas can be used for similar statewide initiatives." Sánchez's new amendment will increase the use of DHS grants in focusing on identifying threats and improving "cybersecurity sharing dissemination." According to Sánchez, "Given our increased reliance on cyber technology for commerce and critical infrastructure, and given the increasing sophistication of hackers who would do us harm, we must improve our efforts to identify, neutralize, and prevent cyberattacks."
In 2009, Loretta Sánchez secured $49.7 million in federal funding for critical water projects in Orange County, including local dam building, water treatment, and conservation projects:
$49,310,000 for the continuing construction of the Santa Ana River Mainstem Project, including the Prado Dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers labeled the Santa Ana River the worst flood threat west of the Mississippi River. Federal funding allowed for the construction of a new dam to help mitigate this threat, as well as the potential environmental impact imposed by the dam.
$2.870,000 for the Upper Newport Bay Ecosystem Restoration - Funding for this initiative helped manage sedimentation in the Upper Newport Bay by increasing the capacity of sediment basins, restoring and enhancing estuarine habitats, and improving educational and recreational opportunities.
$426,000 for the Westminster-East Garden Grove Watershed Study in Santa Ana to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertake a comprehensive study of the Westminster Watershed, to develop a rehabilitation plan for flood control, ecosystem restoration, recreation, and water quality solutions, including the East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel and the Bolsa Chica Flood Control Channel. This study helped bolster flood control efforts currently in place, and assisted with ecosystem restoration and overall water quality standards. Both projects were consistent with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' flood control and environmental restoration missions in Southern California.
$558,000 for the Orange Country Regional Water Reclamation Project - Also known as the Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS), this project was a water supply initiative designed to reuse approximately 140,000 acre-feet of treated and recycled waste water every year.
$860,000 for the Westminster/East Garden Grove Watershed Study - Funding helped the Army Corps of Engineers continue its comprehensive study of the Westminster Watershed
$546,000 for the Surfside-Sunset and Newport Beaches - Funding helped mitigate damage along 17 miles of the Orange County coastline that was caused by the construction of federal navigation and flood control works in Long Beach and Anaheim Bay.
$369,000 for a Feasibility Study on the Aliso Creek Mainstem Project - Funding for the project helped to develop a plan to create stable flood plain areas and regenerate native riparian habitats, which resulted in cooler water and improved fish health.
In 1994, Sanchez ran for Anaheim City Council running under her married name Loretta Sanchez Brixey. She later dropped her married name because she believed that she and her seven brothers and sisters were better known in the community as the Sanchez family.
Sanchez had previously been a Republican, but changed her affiliation to Democratic in 1996 to run in the 46th District against six-term Republican incumbent Bob Dornan. The bitterly fought race saw Sánchez charge that Dornan was out of touch with his constituency, especially after a distracting run for the 1996 Republican Presidential nomination. The 46th and its predecessors had always had a Democratic tilt, but became even more Democratic after the 1990 census when it absorbed a considerably larger number of Hispanics than had previously been in the district. Sánchez won by 984 votes, and Dornan contested the election, alleging that many votes were cast by people who were not American citizens. A Congressional investigation found evidence that 624 votes were indeed cast by non-citizens. An additional 124 votes had already been thrown out by California officials. These votes were not enough to throw Sánchez's victory into doubt, so the investigation was halted and the outcome was upheld by a Republican-controlled Congress, making Sánchez the first American of Mexican heritage to represent Orange County in Congress. Dornan continues to assert that illegal voter registration of non-citizens was decisive in Sánchez's victory. In consultation with the INS, the House committee identified as many as 4,700 questionable registration affidavits; but the probe was dropped before these affidavits could be investigated. As Article I Section V of the Constitution of the United States provides that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members" the investigation was without binding authority.
In a 1998 rematch, she easily defeated Dornan and would not face another serious contest in a congressional election. Her district was renumbered the 47th District after the 2000 census. During that redistricting process, Sánchez hired lobbyist Michael S. Berman, brother of California Democratic Congressman Howard Berman,for "redistricting consulting" on her behalf. She paid Berman $20,000 for his work.
In 2006, she defeated Tan D. Nguyen (R) with 62% of the vote.
During California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election, Sánchez was one of the first Democrats to break from Governor Gray Davis and state that a Democrat should run to succeed Davis in case the recall measure passed. Though she recommended that the Democratic candidate be California’s Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein, Sánchez stated that if no other serious Democratic contender stepped forward, she would be willing to run herself. Many California Democrats ultimately adopted Sánchez’s position, paving the way for Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante to enter the race.
Sánchez won against Republican nominee Rosemarie Avila and American Independent Robert Lauten.
Sánchez considered running for Governor and for the United States Senate, but declined to enter the gubernatorial race after former Governor Jerry Brown declared his candidacy and deferred to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer, who ran for re-election.
Sánchez was challenged by Republican nominee Van Tran and Independent candidate Ceci Iglesias. According to Roll Call, Sánchez considered running for governor or for the U.S. Senate in 2010. In November 2005, she opened an exploratory committee called People for Loretta 2010. However, in June 2009, she announced she would run for reelection to the House.
In September 2010, Loretta Sánchez appeared on the Spanish language network, Univisión and said that "the Vietnamese and the Republicans are – with an intensity – trying to take away 'our' seat", referring to her Vietnamese-born opponent, Van Tran. Sanchez also described Tran as "anti-immigrant".
In September, 2011 Sánchez's campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, was arrested on suspicion of mail fraud. Sánchez and several others of Durkee's clients found their campaign funds wiped out. Sánchez's chief of staff, Adrienne Elrod, remarked that "Kinde was someone whose services and counsel we trusted for many years. These charges if true are disheartening and a betrayal by a long time Democratic treasurer for many candidates and committees.”
Sánchez was re-elected.
On May 16, 2015, when talking to a group of Indian Americans, Sánchez made a gesture mocking Native Americans by making a "war cry" that is stereotypically attributed to them. She described her confusion between Native Americans and Indian Americans prior to a meeting with an Indian-American, saying "I am going to his office, thinking that I am going to meet with a 'woo woo woo woo' (stereotypical Indian war cry) — Right? ... because he said Indian American." Many in the audience were shocked at the gesture, finding it offensive. After initially running away from a reporter who tried to question her about the slur, she apologized for it on May 17, saying "in this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive and for that, I sincerely apologize."
Due to Barbara Boxer's impending retirement, the 2016 Senate election in California had the first open seat Senate election in California in 24 years. On May 14, 2015, Loretta Sánchez announced her bid for this Senate seat. She competed against Attorney General of California Kamala Harris and thirty two other candidates in California's top-two primary.
On June 7, 2016, Sánchez finished second in the Open Primary and faced California Attorney General Kamala Harris, also a Democrat, in the general election.
In the June, 2016 primary, with results detailed at the county level, Loretta Sánchez won six counties: Fresno, Imperial, Kings, Madera, Orange, and Tulare counties. With the exception of Orange County, these are all counties with a majority Mexican-American population. Of these six counties, the highest vote percentage was Imperial County at 35.4%.
On November 8, 2016, Sánchez lost the U.S. Senate race to Harris. She carried only two counties, Glenn and Imperial. She lost her home county, Orange, by eight points. In her concession speech, she stated that “Although we don’t know what our future will be, I can tell you that this is not the last that people will see of me”.
In January 2017, Sánchez donated her congressional papers to her alma mater, Chapman University in Orange, California. It encompasses twenty-five boxes of files, papers and committee work which will be available for public view at a later date. Sánchez has been a trustee and regular lecturer at the university.
In September 2017, it was announced that Sanchez will be the executive producer of a new political drama show called Accidental candidate, which will appear on NBC.
In November 2002, Sánchez's younger sister, Linda, who is nine years her junior, was elected for the new 39th District. They are the first pair of sisters to serve simultaneously in the United States Congress.
Sánchez was married for 14 years to stock broker Stephen Brixey before he filed for divorce on January 15, 2004.
In November 2010, Roll Call and the Orange County Register reported Loretta's engagement to retired Army Colonel Jack Einwechter. Einwechter is currently a lawyer practicing in Washington, D.C. The couple were married on July 16, 2011 in a private ceremony in Santa Ana, California.
Loretta's father, Ignacio ("Nacho"), suffers from Alzheimer's disease. She appears briefly in the HBO documentary film, The Alzheimer's Project: Caregivers.
The Hispanic Caucus Controversy (see above) was parodied on The Colbert Report on February 7, 2007.
Loretta Sánchez appeared as herself in the September 10, 2007 episode of The Closer entitled "Til Death Do Us Part, Part II". Within the fictional narrative of the show, she was briefly seen on the program Larry King Live being interviewed about a criminal legal case.