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Sanchez Out Again as Convention Speaker

Congresswoman's withdrawal is latest twist in flap over now-canceled Playboy Mansion fund-raiser. She says she did not want to give wrong impression about moving the event.


Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) on Monday stunned Democratic Party officials--again--by withdrawing as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

But her decision did nothing to put an end to the flap over her now-canceled fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion. And if anything, it has heightened her political profile, if not endeared her to party leaders.

As Sanchez walked onto the convention floor at Staples Center shortly after the event began, she drew the kind of attention usually reserved for a celebrity.

"I'm going to send you a contribution," Ohio delegate J. Pat Leahy told her. He said he had never heard of Sanchez before the controversy.

Colorado delegate Rick Swain snapped pictures of her. "I like the lady," he said.

And a swarm of reporters and television crews followed her around, giving her far more attention than she would have received from the three-minute speech she was scheduled to give Monday.

In bowing out, Sanchez said she did not want to give the impression that she moved the fund-raiser to regain a spot on the dais. "I didn't want people to get the wrong impression about why I backed down," she said. "Some people think I moved the venue for personal gain. That's not the case."

Sanchez, co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, on Thursday lost her speaking role because of what had been her steadfast refusal to relocate the fund-raiser for Hispanic Unity USA, a political action committee she heads. She regained a spot on the speakers' list the next day after she agreed to move tonight's event to a club on Universal Studios' CityWalk.

At that point, party leaders and officials with Al Gore's presidential campaign hoped the long-simmering dispute had been settled. But Sanchez's surprise decision Monday kept the topic alive. Indeed, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) addressed delegates Monday, CNN was airing an interview with Sanchez.

Democratic officials had objected that having the Playboy Mansion host the fund-raiser would send the wrong message about a party committed to women's rights and gender equality. But Sanchez's supporters noted that many Democrats, including Gore, have accepted campaign contributions from Playboy executives. And, they said, the party's reaction ran counter to its traditional support of 1st Amendment rights.

Exactly when Sanchez was to speak had been up in the air; she said she finally got word Sunday of the Monday slot when a technician called her staff to say she was needed for TelePrompTer rehearsal.

At that point, she worried that she did not have enough time to prepare a speech--or get it approved in advance by DNC officials.

She also said she was tied up with final arrangements for her fund-raiser, adding that she fears it will be less successful financially because of the last-minute move.

"I'd rather keep speaking out on the issues I care about on my own terms rather than three minutes at the convention," Sanchez said.

National committee spokeswoman Jenny Backus said planners were excited about "having her speak about bringing more people into the party and Latino issues."

She denied that Sanchez's refusal to speak would spur other actions against her when the DNC meets Friday. "We're looking forward to working with her for the fall elections," Backus said.


Times staff writer Frank Del Olmo contributed to this story.

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