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The Sanchez sisters choose up sides

January 18, 2008 |  5:34 pm

The fiercely contested Democratic presidential campaign has sparked a sibling split -- one that isn't too surprising for those familiar with the pair involved, who happen to be members of Congress.

This morning, Los Angeles County-area Rep. Linda Sanchez -- who has one of the House's most liberal voting records (and also is one of its younger ones; she turns 39 later this month) -- announced her support for Barack Obama.

Lo and behold, several hours later, her older -- and somewhat more conservative -- sister, Orange County-area Rep. Loretta Sanchez, endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Loretta Sanchez's communications director Paula Negrete insisted to us the same-day timing of the two announcements was coincidental. Odd how that worked out, though, isn't it?

The dueling endorsement statements from the sisters epitomize their own different political complexions -- as well as, when you get down to it, the core differences between Clinton's pitch to the party and Obama's.

Linda Sanchez said that since she came to Washington after first winning her seat ...

in 2002, "I have seen the difficulty in bringing fresh ideas to Washington D.C. and to our country. Sadly, great talent and ideas are too often dismissed because those who possessed them were seen as too idealistic, too young, or too unwilling to submit to the same old Washington way of doing things.  Senator Obama is the candidate who can change that culture by mobilizing a new generation to get involved in the civic life of our country.  He is reinvigorating America by showing us that we all have a stake -- and a say -- in our democracy and our country's future.”

Loretta Sanchez (who turned 48 earlier this month), countered: “Senator Clinton is a leader who has the experience to turn this country around. She has proposed an economic stimulus plan aimed to help middle-class families in Orange County and across America by taking steps to stop predatory lenders, provide tax relief for families and create new good paying jobs. She will work to strengthen all communities, including Latinos -- no one will be invisible.”

There you have it ... "fresh ideas" vs. "experience." Obama is going to change Washington's culture; Clinton wants to spotlight specific proposals.

We doubt the sisters will suffer any strain due to their decisions to go different ways in the presidential contest -- they're close personally, and each helped the other's political career. Linda served as field director when Loretta gained national attention in 1996 for narrowly defeating the Republican incumbent in her House district, well-known and vocal conservative Robert Dornan. Loretta, in turn, provided fundraising and campaigning aid that helped propel Linda into her House seat.

Still, as we noted, the divide is not uncharacteristic for the two. Although Loretta is no shrinking violet (go here for a memory refresher on the great Playboy Mansion flap of 2000), Linda's is an even larger personality. In 2006, she brought down the house with a standup comedy routine at a charity fundraiser, easily winning the title "Funniest Celebrity in Washington."

And then there are these contrasts, as detailed in a Washington Post story that ran as Linda prepared to join her sister in the nation's capital a little more than five years ago:

"Loretta is a morning person, up at dawn and asleep by 10 p.m. Linda is a night owl. ... Loretta likes opera and Neil Young. Linda is really into Pink right now. Loretta is neat. Linda is messy.

" 'Everything in its place, by color,' says Loretta. 'My shoes are all in place. Her idea is piles.'

"Linda rolls her eyes. 'If you drape your coat across the back of a chair, it doesn't disturb the order of the cosmos, Loretta.' "

The piece was premised on plans the sister had to become roommates. According to Negrete, Loretta's aide, that never happened.

For peace in the family these days, that's probably a good thing.

-- Don Frederick