Sanchez pulls ahead of Tran in heated Orange County congressional race

Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Republican Van Tran
Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Republican Van Tran
Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images; DHN/Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

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With all of the precincts counted, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is ahead of Republican challenger Van Tran, 51 percent to 42.1 percent. That’s about 5,500 votes. But Tran isn’t conceding just yet.

Loretta Sanchez’s party took on a very Latino feel, with taco trucks and a mariachi band filling a Spanish-style plaza in downtown Santa Ana.

Latino voters – who make up a big chunk of this congressional district – were at the heart of Sanchez’s campaign.

Sanchez says this close, sometimes dirty race reminded her of when she beat Republican icon Bob Dornan for the seat 14 years ago.

"It’s been very difficult," Sanchez says. "The Republicans poured a lot of money in against me, but when all was said and done, the people came through. They came and volunteered. We got our act together and we won."

Sanchez says she’s confident she’ll keep her lead, even as the registrar of voters counts provisional and late absentee ballots in the coming days.

But over at Republican Van Tran’s headquarters in Garden Grove, there was an equally festive vibe. Supporters gather around a big-screen TV to watch election results as they munch on traditional Vietnamese food.

Tran says even though he’s behind now, in his words, "the fat lady hasn’t sung yet."

He says he thinks it’ll take at least a couple of weeks until all of the ballots are tallied and we find out who the winner is.

"I always do well with late absentees and provisionals and that’s a fact," Tran says. "So we’re just hoping that it will be enough to overcome whatever lead that she has on Election Day."

Tran says he had a last-minute get-out-the-vote drive in the district’s Vietnamese community. He’s hoping that will pull him ahead.

But for now, Democrat Loretta Sanchez is claiming victory in the 47th Congressional District.