Rep. Loretta Sanchez's campaign war chest got a huge boost Sunday when President Clinton showed up for a fund-raiser in Los Angeles for the Garden Grove Democrat.
Swinging through on a West Coast tour, Clinton urged the 100-plus supporters at the Westwood Marquis Hotel to give Sanchez the clear victory she deserves.
"I want an unambiguous celebration this November," he told the cheering crowd, referring to Sanchez's controversial victory in 1996.
Sunday night's reception was expected to net at least $150,000 for Sanchez, who expects a tough reelection fight in the 46th Congressional District. Analysts believe former Rep. Robert K. Dornan, whom she ousted by 984 votes, is her chief GOP rival for the November election.
"I still believe it will be a difficult race, so we need to be ready financially," she said.
Many longtime Sanchez supporters from Orange County attended, but the chance to meet the president drew veteran Democrats from throughout the state.
Afterward, Clinton and his entourage headed for a party fund-raising dinner at the Brentwood home of Eli Broad, chairman and CEO of SunAmerica Inc. Broad is also the co-chair of L.A. Convention 2000, a newly formed group lobbying to bring the next Democratic National Convention to Los Angeles.
At $10,000 a couple, that fund-raiser is expected to net at least $1 million for Democratic congressional candidates. Sanchez already has amassed an impressive $916,496 in cash contributions, dwarfing her GOP rivals. Her total election fund-raising for the last 15 months is $1.67 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The freshman Democrat's seat is seen as a primary battleground as Republican and Democratic parties struggle for control of the House of Representatives. Observers predict that election costs could easily spiral to $4 million, far surpassing the $1.55 million that she and Dornan spent during their bitter fight in 1996.
"It's sad to see an election being used as a political football between the parties," Sanchez said. "I don't want national influences to make the decision for us."
Sanchez has received stellar support in the last two months from top Democratic officials, including fund-raisers headlined by Vice President Al Gore and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
State and national GOP officials have made it clear that they plan to focus resources on dislodging the woman who, by defeating a Republican in the heart of conservative Orange County, has become a symbol for many Democrats of their possible resurgence.