By Ken Stone
Updated at 7:40 a.m. Nov. 4, 2016
Pinning her hopes on the undecided vote and fellow Hispanics, Rep. Loretta Sanchez brought her underdog U.S. Senate campaign to Barrio Logan, vowing to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in the first 60 days if elected.
The Garden Grove Democrat told a news conference Thursday in Chicano Park that she, unlike rival Kamala Harris, has “all the experience” to tackle reform.
“I’m ready to go on Day 1,” she told Times of San Diego. “I know the issue. I know who’s been with us. I know who’s been against us.”
And Harris, the state attorney general [leading in the latest poll by 20 percentage points], “never put out a comprehensive immigration reform plan,” Sanchez said.
Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the Harris campaign disputed that, hitting “yet more false attacks from a desperate candidate,” saying Harris won big victories for immigrant families and articulated ideas for comprehensive reform on her website.
Nathan Click, the spokesman, also said: “Sanchez has been criticized by immigration activists in Washington for missing key immigration votes. And while Sanchez today appeared with Darrell Issa — one of the most vocal opponents of the president and his immigration executive actions — Kamala endorsed and will be campaigning with Issa’s challenger in San Diego on Monday.”
Issa endorsed his fellow Orange County House member two months ago, traveling with Sanchez to promote their national security views.
Click shared a Facebook video link to Harris at a Sacramento campaign stop noting immigration.*
A seven-term congresswoman, Sanchez, 56, also declared “we completely believe that we will win,” saying her own polls show a “head-to-head race.”
“I know about a third of people have still not decided how to vote,” she said as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and San Diego Councilman David Alvarez stood beside her after expressing their own support — in English and Spanish. (Sanchez also spokes for six minutes in Spanish, benefiting viewers of Univision.)
A poll issued Tuesday by Southern California News Group and KABC/Eyewitness News said Harris entered the final week backed by 47 percent of voters, with Sanchez at 27 percent and 26 percent undecided.
Sanchez, who would be the first Latina in the U.S. Senate, predicted the outcome of the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer would not be known immediately, noting that she brought her own absentee ballot to a polling place at the June election — which wasn’t counted for a week.
In those absentee ballots, she said, “will be the votes for Loretta Sanchez.”
Sanchez began the half-hour media event by noting Pope Francis’ support of immigrants and calling reform “the moral imperative of our time (and) numero uno” on the U.S. political agenda.
The immigration issue hasn’t been fixed, she said, because of politics, prejudice and complacency.
Her plan would include ending family detentions, providing more federal resources to deal with sometimes 10-year backlogs in naturalization applications and closing privately run immigration detention centers.
Sanchez stressed that she supported a strong border and would deport “those who pose a threat” while being open to the plight of Syrian refugees and unaccompanied children fleeing Central America.
Having attended several county events Thursday morning, including on in Escondido, Sanchez headed back home and planned a Los Angeles appearance as well.
“We’re going up and down the state to remind people there’s [a Senate] election,” Sanchez said. “And the difference between the two of us. My opponent doesn’t have the experience that matters. And I believe when people see that, they begin to vote for us.”
*Correction: An earlier version of this story said Harris led a chant of “I’m gonna win.” In fact, she was saying “Ami’s gonna win,” referring to Rep. Amerish “Ami” Bera in Sacramento.
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