By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
On paper, the race between 14-year Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez and Republican challenger Van Tran for the central Orange County 47th Congressional District appears to be not much of a contest.
The district, which covers most of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana, is not only 65.3 percent Hispanic, but also has a big registration edge for the Democrats. They’ve got over 103,000 registered voters, compared to over 68,000 for the GOP.
On top of that, Sanchez won in a landslide in 2008, getting almost 70 percent of the vote.
However, this election isn’t on paper and it’s not 2008.
Unhappiness with the state of the economy appears to be building a major anti-incumbent wave. Republicans, who suffered big losses in Congress in 2006 and 2008 appear to be poised to gain anywhere from 30 to 55 seats in the House of Representatives, which could put them back in the majority.
Can they do it? A lot will depend on districts like the 47th.
Forseeing a close contest, both parties and their supporters are pouring a lot of resources into this race. If ethnic bloc voting is a factor, each candidate starts with a base: Sanchez with Hispanics and Tran with Vietnamese.
However, the real power may well rest with the district’s huge number of independents: over 41,000 who don’t have a party. In the 2008 vote, many of them swung to President Obama and the Democrats. This year, Republicans hope they will swing to the right.
Most observers believe that the race leans toward Sanchez, but there’s been little public polling on the race. One survey, conducted by American Action Forum, a conservative group, shows a split decision.
In their poll, when 47th District voters were asked whether they favored a Republican or a Democrat to represent them in Congress, they lean to the GOP (and Tran) by a margin of four percentage points.
But when asked whether they prefer Sanchez or Tran, the incumbent takes a two percentage lead.
In response to the perceived tightness of the race, both candidates have been making many appearances in the district, including Garden Grove. Tran was on hand for the opening of the new farmers’ market on Main Street, which Sanchez dropped in at the Acacia Adult Day Services for its 31st anniversary.
The GOP needs to pick up 39 seats to regain control of the House and so there’s a lot of attention on this particular contest. In 2010 the 47th is seen as a swing district that might be won by, say, a margin as thin as paper.