One of the key constituencies of the new Democratic majority in the House has started to crumble. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has split along gender lines, a rebellion against the caucus chair led by my old representative from California:
A firestorm erupted Wednesday within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus when California Rep. Loretta Sanchez quit in protest of Rep. Joe Baca’s chairmanship and alleged mistreatment of women.
Sanchez, in her fifth term representing California’s 47th District, reportedly is furious at fellow California Democrat, Baca, for alleged derogatory remarks. In an interview with Politico.com she accused him of calling her a “whore.” …
Sanchez’s protest of Baca’s chairmanship of the caucus — which represents 21 Hispanic House Democrats — dates back to November 2006, when she voted against him for the leadership post. Four other women members, including Sanchez’s sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez, abstained.
Just a few weeks ago, four female lawmakers requested that Baca repeat the election because the group did not follow it’s own rules of using secret ballots. Sanchez’s spokesman said they never received a response.
Sanchez told Politico.com that “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.”
It didn’t take long for the first signs of disunity among the Democrats to appear, although it was fairly predictable. This feud has simmered for months, and the lack of response by Democratic leadership has allowed it to explode. At a time when both parties want to do its best to attract the growing Hispanic population, the Democrats have to deal with infighting among its best envoys to that demographic.
This stems from decisions made almost a year ago to support non-federal candidates with the caucus’ PAC funds. Baca sent funds to California state candidates, two of whom coincidentally happened to be Baca’s sons. I blogged about the controversy last March, noting that the funds that went to Joe Baca Jr. was used to oppose another Hispanic candidate, a decision that made Sanchez and five other members irate enough to go public with their dissatisfaction.
At the time, I figured that the scandal would force Baca from his post, especially given the Democrats’ insistence on making ethics the centerpiece of their midterm campaign. Unfortunately, that proved to be a bad prediction. Baca apparently eschewed secret ballots for the CHC leadership election, a move that may have been intended to intimidate caucus members into forcing them to support his re-election. It would be hard to find any other reason to violate caucus rules on leadership elections, and considering the need to control BOLDPAC for Baca family political ambitions, a necessary step indeed.
One has to wonder why Nancy Pelosi has not intervened in this fiasco. Apparently, the need for ethics reform doesn’t apply to Democratic politicians misdirecting money to build family political empires.