Hispanic Caucus members toil over insult
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 1
WASHINGTON - Three female members of the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus accused the organization's male
leaders Thursday of treating women unfairly. Rep.
Loretta Sanchez (news, bio, voting record) said the
caucus chairman called her a "whore."
Rep. Joe Baca (news, bio, voting record) denied
uttering the insult, which Sanchez cited among
grievances that led her to announce this week she was
quitting the group.
"Let me be clear: Her comments are categorically
untrue," said Baca, who like Sanchez is a California
"He said it. For him to deny it is just a silly
thing," Sanchez said in an interview.
She and Rep. Hilda Solis (news, bio, voting record),
D-Calif., said Baca made the comment at an event in
Sacramento, Calif., over the summer and that it was
repeated to them by people they declined to identify.
"Name-calling never helps anything," said Sanchez,
adding she confronted Baca about the comment. "He just
shook for awhile and then he said, 'That's a lie.'"
The controversy, which became public with a report
Wednesday on the Web site politico.com about the
"whore" comment, was the latest evidence of conflict
between men in the growing caucus and a smaller,
mostly female contingent.
Baca was supported by only one of six women in the
21-member caucus when he was elected chairman in
November. Solis, Loretta Sanchez and her sister,
Linda, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (news, bio, voting
record) of New York subsequently disputed the election
procedure and asked for a new secret-ballot vote. All
caucus members are Democrats.
Other concerns include Baca's decision to use money
from the caucus' political action committee to fund
his sons' unsuccessful campaigns for state office in
California last year. That led Solis, the Sanchez
sisters and three other lawmakers to sever ties with
the fundraising groups.
There also is a perception among female caucus members
that their concerns are given short shrift in a caucus
that like the Congress as a whole remains
overwhelmingly male, despite high profile advances by
women in Congress.
"I think there tends to be the sentiment that there
has to be more work done to improve relationships in
the caucus and the treatment of women in the caucus,"
Solis said in an interview.
"I am waiting to see if the Hispanic Caucus leadership
will make good on its promise to be more fair and
inclusive of its Latina members," said Linda Sanchez
(news, bio, voting record), whose district is near her
older sister's in Southern California.