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Linda Sanchez, the Congresswoman Who Brings Down the House

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Sunday, October 8, 2006

Rep. Linda Sanchez may be the most fearless woman on Capitol Hill.

Heck, she may be the most fearless politician in this town, period! But before her folks grab that blurb for a campaign ad . . . We're not talking about her politics. We're talking about her stand-up act.

I know the pain of the U.S. Soccer team. I know what it's like to only score twice in four years!

The California Democrat killed last month at the D.C. Improv during the charity fundraiser known as the "Funniest Celebrity in Washington," handily winning the title from a field of fellow pols and journalists. (Full disclosure: We sat on the judging panel.) Last week she moved up to play one of the big rooms -- the sold-out Warner Theatre, where she joined pros like "Reno 911!'s" Carlos Alazraqui onstage for the annual "Reyes of Comedy Night." The show was sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute -- but Sanchez was the only member of Congress doing shtick.

It seems like the only men I meet these days are men in airports. Heck, I remember when men used to check me out because they thought I was cute! Now they do it because they think I'm a security threat.

Still, I don't think it's so wrong to line my bra with tinfoil for a little extra attention.

Maybe not the edgiest material if you've watched a lot of late-night cable. And many other lawmakers have gamely tried stand-up on the local charity circuit. What startles about the divorced 37-year-old is her willingness to self-deprecate about her own love life -- a topic most elected officials dodge like a subpoena. "Funniest Celebrity" producer Richard Siegel said that in 13 years, he's only coaxed two other congresswomen onstage -- Susan Molinari (after she left office) and Pat Schroeder . They, like their male counterparts, stuck to topical humor. "They're very rarely vulnerable enough to talk about their own personal lives," he said.

I don't really consider myself desperate . . . just misunderstood.

I dated this guy for a while and we'd been out, like, half a dozen times, and I still hadn't gotten a goodnight kiss. When I finally confronted him about it, he said he was intimidated because I was in Congress.

So I had him audited.

First elected in '02, Sanchez has riffed at about half a dozen D.C. fundraisers. Sure, she says, she may go out on a limb more than most dignified politicians. But "at the end of the day I'm just Linda, and Linda is a single professional woman, and a lot of women can relate to what I talk about."

Growing up with four teasing brothers (plus older sis Rep. Loretta Sanchez ) built her sense of humor; staffers say she tries out her jokes in the cloakroom and hones them with their advice. Some are raunchy (Republicans "make love like they make war: They lie to get in, and they don't know what to do when they get there"). So far, though, nothing's come back to haunt her back home (it's a very safe seat). "At the end of the day, I do worry that people might get the wrong idea about my jokes," said Sanchez. "I try to limit it to venues where it's for a worthy cause."

So, these dating stories -- any of them, you know, true? She'll only say that many have "a basis in fact, but I embellish or exaggerate to make the humor more so."

I've recently been on this kick of dating first-responders. First, I dated a cop, and then a federal air marshal, and most recently a fireman from Maryland.

If I could just hook up with a construction worker and an Indian chief, we'll have the band back together!

I'm Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, and I approve these jokes.

A Diploma and a Degree of Confusion

In 1999, freelance writer Jim Patterson got a framed certificate of appreciation from the Republican National Committee for his volunteer work. Two weeks ago, he was removing it from the frame when he noticed something odd underneath: a 1989 Fitchburg State College diploma granted to Sharon Lisa Higgins .

Patterson was appalled. Had some RNC worker grabbed the diploma off the wall and covered it with the certificate? "I was dumbfounded that someone would be so callous," said Patterson. Could we help him find the rightful owner?

We called the Massachusetts college, which put us in touch with Higgins, now Sharon Jones of East Falmouth, Mass. -- who instantly cracked up: "I used to work for a picture frame company," she explained. The marketing department needed a diploma for a frame, her Fitchburg sheepskin was the perfect size, and thousands of high-quality replicas were created.

"It looked very convincing, like the real deal," said Patterson, who heard the explanation Friday.

Quipped RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt: "We are actually now offering a master's degree in volunteerism if he is interested. With 30 days left, it's all hands on deck."

READERS TELL US

A Virginia reader writes: How many sources would you need before you could say Congressman X is gay?

Just one -- Congressman X himself. Which is why you're not reading a lot of those stories.

Arlington writes: Would you report it if you saw a congressman and his male significant other smooching at, say, Cafe Milano? What does a right to privacy mean to a gossip columnist?

If you really want privacy, don't talk about it, write about it, tape it, IM it or do it in public. Any two people making out in a restaurant are fair game; anyone making out at Cafe Milano is practically begging to be written about. Send us any lip-lock sightings at reliablesource@washpost.com .

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