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Having Endured Hisses, Sanchez Accepts Cheers

The Orange County lawmaker dismisses the controversy over her planned Playboy Mansion fund-raiser as a healthy 'family disagreement.'


She was the woman who had embarrassed the Democratic Party by making the controversial location of her fund-raiser national news.

So, when they saw Rep. Loretta Sanchez enter a Wilshire Grand Hotel ballroom Thursday morning, a seated crowd of roughly 100 Latino delegates let her know how they felt about her: They stood and cheered.

It was a typical reaction on the last day of a week's worth of Hispanic Caucus meetings held inside the hotel. There, the notion of standing behind your own often trumped prevailing worries this week over how Vice President Al Gore was doing in the polls.

That was made clear by the brief appearance made by Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Analysts had dismissed the feisty Orange County legislator as a party pariah when she stubbornly insisted, in the face of Gore's "family values" stance, that her political action committee fund-raiser be held at the Playboy Mansion.

The party's location was eventually changed to B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal CityWalk, but Sanchez nonetheless basked in the praise she received as someone who was not afraid to stand up to the political establishment.

"There's nobody like her," said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, stressing that the brief controversy meant little compared to Sanchez's ousting of then-Rep. Robert K. Dornan in 1996.

Sanchez, happy the controversy was behind her, called the disagreement with party leaders over the fund-raiser's location a healthy "family disagreement."

"Being able to have differences of opinion is part of being a truly inclusive party," she said. "Actively discussing those differences gives you the opportunity to be more creative."

Still, Sanchez couldn't resist adding that she believes she was in the right about Tuesday's dinner, which raised $500,000 for the Hispanic Unity USA political action committee.

When asked whether party honchos should have let the fund-raiser continue as planned, she said: "They should have done that. It was our fund-raiser, not theirs."

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