Sanchez Moves Fund-Raiser

Saturday, August 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — In an 11th-hour decision aimed at healing an embarrassing party rift, Rep. Loretta Sanchez pulled a fund-raiser from the Playboy Mansion but offered no apologies to her fellow Democrats.

``Our decision is that we will be moving the Hispanic Unity USA Party,'' Sanchez told reporters after taking a deep breath Friday. ``We will be moving it to a different location. We will be having it on Tuesday night.''

Party leaders responded by immediately restoring the speaking slot at next week's Democratic National Convention that they had taken from Sanchez on Thursday when she refused to move the fund-raiser.

``This is not a First Amendment issue,'' Joe Andrew, the party chairman, said Saturday on NBC. ``We just know that the Playboy mansion sends a message'' and that Playboy has spent million cultivating an image about the place that ``is simply inconsistent with what the Democratic Party and what Al Gore are fighting for.''

Democratic leaders feared that the event, though not sanctioned by the party, could undermine attempts to portray Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman as pro-family, and could give Republicans an easy target in the fall campaigns.

While Sanchez said Friday she regretted the ``discord and disagreement'' within the party, she gave no ground on her decision to schedule the event at the Playboy Mansion, famed for its scantily clad women. And she praised Playboy's Hugh Hefner and his daughter, Christie, for their efforts.

``This in no way reflects anything other than appreciation to the Hefners and to Playboy Enterprises,'' Sanchez told reporters outside her Garden Grove district office.

The fund-raiser for Hispanic Unity's voter registration initiative will now be held at B.B. King's Blues Club in Universal City.

Gore said he supported the party's decision to distance itself from the event — and from Sanchez, a staunch supporter — despite his own acceptance of campaign money from Playboy, including a $1,000 donation Hefner made last year.

``It's apples and oranges,'' he said.

Andrew, discussing what Sanchez had risked, told NBC, ``I have to admit none of it really made any sense to me.'' Still, he praised her ``courageous decision.'' Not all Democrats agreed.

The president pro tem of the California Senate faxed a letter to Andrew saying he would protest by giving $25,000 he was raising for the Democratic National Committee to Hispanic Unity instead.

``This isn't the Democratic Party I grew up with. ... It smacks more of fascism than the Democratic Party,'' said state Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco. ``What are they going to do next, burn books?''

Sanchez attained near-folk hero status in the Latino community and was embraced and elevated by the Democratic party after her surprise win over longtime Rep. Robert K. Dornan, a conservative Republican, in 1996.

Sanchez's Republican opponent in November's election, Gloria Matta Tuchman, wasted no time in jumping on the issue.

``She has embarrassed her party and embarrassed the people of the 46th congressional district,'' said Tuchman, a schoolteacher and 1998 candidate for state superintendent of public instruction.