Thursday, February 01, 2007

Machismo and the Hispanic Caucus

Josephine Hearn:

Rep. Loretta Sanchez has quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, accusing the chairman, Rep. Joe Baca, of telling people she's a "whore."

Baca denied the charge.

In an interview with The Politico Wednesday, Sanchez, a California Democrat as is Baca, also cited concerns about whether Baca was properly elected Hispanic Caucus chairman in November and about his general attitude toward female lawmakers. The caucus represents 21 Hispanic Democrats in Congress.

"I'm not going to be a part of the CHC as long as Mr. Baca illegally holds the chair … I told them no. There's a big rift here," Sanchez said. "You treat the women like shit. I have no use for him."

In a statement to The Politico, Baca said Sanchez "has decided to resign from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and has chosen to air baseless statements. Let me be clear; her comments are categorically untrue."

The last time lawmakers withdrew from the Hispanic caucus was in the late 1990s when the group's Republican members left over partisan differences.

Sanchez said she had been approached earlier this year to contribute funds from her office budget to support the CHC's shared staff, a requirement for all its members. She refused.

"I told them to take me off the list, take me off the Web site, take me off everything," Sanchez said.

She said she was surprised and insulted when she learned that Baca had made the disparaging personal comment about her to California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and other legislators last year.

Nunez "is a friend of mine. Did he think he wouldn't tell me?" Sanchez asked.

Sanchez voted against Baca in the election for chairman in November. Four other female lawmakers abstained from the vote, raising concerns about whether the election followed proper procedures.

The Sanchez withdrawal is a blow to Baca and his allies who have been trying to bring the caucus back together after a series of internal spats last year. Many of the more junior members and the women have butted heads with him and senior lawmakers.

Last February, six members withdrew from the group's political action committee after Baca and his allies authorized political contributions to family members who were running for state and local offices.

Sanchez was among that group of defectors, which also included her sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and Democratic Reps. Dennis Cardoza of California, Jim Costa of California, Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona and Hilda L. Solis of California.

In recent weeks, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Calif., a CHC member who serves in House leadership as assistant to the speaker, had been trying to persuade the six members to rejoin the political action committee, which is known as the Committee for Hispanic Causes/Building Our Leadership Diversity. So far, it appears those efforts have not succeeded. An invitation for a PAC fundraiser to be held Wednesday night continues to omit the six.

Earlier this month, four female lawmakers wrote Baca asking that the caucus repeat his election as chairman because the earlier vote failed to use secret ballots, as required in the group's bylaws.

Sanchez and other female CHC members have repeatedly complained that Baca and some of his male colleagues do not accord them a high level of respect.

"There is a big rift. Hello? Do they not get this?" Sanchez said.

CHC nears split as female members refuse to support chairman

Trouble Within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

A Crack In The Caucus


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