U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez apologized Sunday after a videotape surfaced showing her making a whooping cry in reference to Native Americans that brought her a cascade of reprimands from fellow Democrats.
Speaking to party activists at a state Democratic convention Sunday, Sanchez described herself as a longtime champion of civil and human rights who has Native American blood in her mother's family. She said she had a hectic day of speeches and handshaking at the convention Saturday and was not the type of politician routinely managed or sheltered by "handlers."
"In this crazy and exciting rush of meetings yesterday, I said something offensive and for that I sincerely apologize," said Sanchez, the daughter daughter Mexican immigrants who settled in Southern California in the 1950s.
The video, which was shared on social media, shows Sanchez tapping her hand over her open mouth and making a whooping sound while speaking to a group of delegates Saturday. According to the Los Angeles Times, the man who caught the gaffe on video has raised money for California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is also running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Sanchez appeared to be making a joke about the difference between Indian-Americans and Native Americans.
Harris called the gesture shocking. The video drew negative comments on social media.
It was the second round of unwelcome publicity for her campaign, which formally launched Thursday. Earlier in the week, a misfired email announced she was running for Senate, which was later recalled. That led to confusion about her intentions, although she ended up announcing her candidacy at the same time and place listed on the errant email.
Dinah Frieden, a delegate who lives in Irvine, in Sanchez's congressional district, who called the taped caricature "incredibly insensitive."
But Marni Magda, a Laguna Beach delegate who has volunteered for Sanchez and supports her Senate bid, said she was confident the congresswoman "would never be racist against anyone. She embraces all diversity."
Sanchez is known for a colorful personality and style that has sometimes brought her unwanted attention. She scheduled a fundraiser during the 2000 Democratic National Convention at Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion and changed the location only after fellow Democrats protested.
California State University, San Francisco, political scientist David Lee, who is also a party delegate, said the episode would leave voters questioning her judgment. Lee noted that Harris, who entered the race in mid-January, has over $2 million on hand and has lined up a string of endorsements, including from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the party's left wing.
Under California's open-primary system, all candidates for each office compete on a single ballot, regardless of their party affiliation, and the top two vote-getters advance to a general election run-off
That system, designed to favor more middle-of-the-road candidates over ideologically extreme contenders in both major parties, allows for outcomes in which two Democrats or two Republicans face each other in November.