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Just How Connected Is Antonio Sanchez?

Hillel Aron | March 13, 2013

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When District 6 runoff candidate Antonio Sanchez showed up to the UTLA endorsement interview last year, he was accompanied by Miguel Santiago, an old friend of Sanchez’s as well as a member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees and — more importantly — State Assembly Speaker John Perez’s District Director.

Santiago’s appearance with Sanchez was interpreted by some within UTLA to mean that Sanchez carried the Assembly Speaker’s stamp of approval.

“In no uncertain terms, it was made clear to us that Sanchez is protected all the way up and down the power structure of the State,” said a highly placed source within UTLA.

This was one of the reasons that UTLA endorsed Sanchez in the primary — and one of the reasons the union leadership and members may struggle tonight when the House of Representatives reconsiders the union’s District 6 endorsements.

But it is not entirely clear whether pulling Sanchez’s endorsement would have any political consequences, in Sacramento or in Los Angeles — or even how it might affect the runoff.

Eric Bauman, Chair of the LA County Democratic Party, Vice Chair of the State Party and a Senior Advisor to Speaker Perez confirms that Santiago went to the endorsement meeting, but said Santiago’s presence wasn’t a message.

“It does not reflect the Speaker’s position, and the Speaker hasn’t endorsed in that race,” he said. “It’s just coincidental that Tony Sanchez is close friend with the Speaker’s staff.”

But former State Senate Leader Gloria Romero, now director of California Democrats for School Reform, thinks the message was implicit.

“It’s definitely a message that was being sent,” she said in a recent telephone interview with LA School Report. “In the political arena, you know who the Speaker’s staff is. That was message. Cause there’s no reason for Miguel to go with Sanchez to that meeting.”

Indeed, Sanchez has many a Sacramento connection. Not only is he friends with Santiago, but also his brother-in-law is Steve Veres, State Senator Kevin de Leon’s district director.

The speculation has been that the 30-year-old Antonio Sanchez is being groomed for office as a State Assemblyman. (In this scenario, State Senator Alex Padilla would run for Secretary of State, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra would jump over to the Senate, and Sanchez would run for Bocanegra’s seat.)

Further complicating the situation is that the UTLA leadership genuinely likes Sanchez, a former aide to the Mayor who’s also been endorsed by the LA County Democratic Party, the LA County Federation of Labor, the SEIU and the Coalition for School Reform.

“The book on him is, when he was in the Mayor’s office, he got things done,” said the UTLA source. “He’s been working extremely hard. He’s not just a politician that expects to be coronated.”

They also aren’t opposed to a moderate Board member — a consensus builder, as it were, and might hope to avoid both a costly runoff and any possible consequences in Sacramento.

SB 10, the bill to make it easier to fire teachers accused of harming children, is up for consideration again this year. In one possible scenario, stripping Sanchez of his endorsement would give powerful Sacramento lawmakers an additional reason to move the bill forward.

“The message we’ve gotten, through a back channel, is that if UTLA pulls their endorsement [for Sanchez], get ready, here comes SB 10,” said the UTLA source.

Sanchez supports SB 10. His opponent, Monica Ratliff, opposes it.

The LA County Democratic Party’s Eric Bauman thinks this idea is ludicrous.

“I can tell you that there is nobody I know of in Sacramento that would make that play,” he said. “The speaker is very close to the CTA [California Teachers Association].”

Romero agrees that there’s probably not any direct connection between the Sanchez endorsement and SB 10 — largely because SB 10 is going to pass.

“This time, there’s gonna be a lot more publicity, and a lot more pressure on the Assembly,” she said. “I think that it goes [through] this year in some form.”

In the end, the most immediate reason not to strip Sanchez of his endorsement and focus on Ratliff may be that doing so could set off a competitive runoff and UTLA is said to have little more than $100,000 left in its coffers — which UTLA leadership controls, not the House of Representatives.

Previous posts: District 6 Candidate Hardens Position on Deasy LeadershipUnion Schedules Special Session To Reconsider Endorsements*Union Endorsements Could Affect District 6 RunoffAfter Election, Board Status Quo Remains Intact

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