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Would Someone Wake Loretta?

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Did someone cancel the U.S. Senate campaign without making an official announcement? It’s a fair question. The first race in 24 years for an open U.S. Senate seat from California was supposed to provide a rare moment of competition, entertainment and political engagement for the state. Instead, it’s barely being covered. 

 

And there’s one person who deserves the blame for this: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. 

With her big personality and need to be better known, Sanchez was supposed to pick fights, stir debates, and get the editorial pages and blogs rolling. Instead, she appears to be in hiding. For example, the recent week – from March 15 to March 22 – she literally didn’t make any news. There wasn’t a single mention of Sanchez at Rough & Tumble, the aggregation site for California news. And she’s been practically invisible on television. 

Sanchez is supposedly biding her time and doing her job as congresswoman. But it’s way too late in the game to be quiet. Voting in the contest will start next month. And remember – our June elections in California are not primaries anymore, they are effectively the general election. November is a run-off. So we’re in what should be the heart of the election season. 

Yes, Kamala Harris isn’t doing all that much to draw coverage – but she’s the favorite, and has strategic reasons for a quieter campaign. (Quiet also seems to suit her unfussy brand.) And you can hardly blame the Republicans for not getting noticed. Duf Sundheim, Tom Del Beccaro and, just now, Ron Unz are people who no one has heard of (sorry Ron, 1994 was too long ago) and they have no chance of winning. 

With three Republicans splitting the vote, maybe Sanchez thinks she can skate through quietly to the run-off. But to win, Sanchez needs to make more noises. She needs a narrative of herself and the state. (If she has offered one, no one has heard it.) She also needs to take on Harris and the Democratic establishment in the state. That may seem risky, but it’s not. The Democrats are a rich target, and they’re behind Harris. So why not point out that Democratic power hasn’t led to very Democratic progress in the lives of Californians? It shouldn’t be hard to make a compelling argument that that establishment has failed. 

But first, she’s gotta make herself visible and pursue a statewide campaign that makes noise. Would someone wake up Loretta?

 

(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square. This piece appeared most recently in Foxandhoundsdaily.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.