Gloria Matta Tuchman this week declared she intends to challenge Rep. Loretta Sanchez next year, and formed an exploratory committee to start collecting campaign donations.

The Santa Ana first grade teacher said she decided to run for the House four months after being approached by the National Republican Congressional Committee, and after a district poll showed she has strong local backing.

“The reaction (of the announcement) has been fantastic. People have called me not only from around Orange County, but from throughout the state and the United States,” said Matta Tuchman, 57, a North Tustin resident of 33 years. “Their comments are, ‘we knew you wouldn’t give up. ‘ “

Matta Tuchman is no stranger to politics. She served on the Tustin Unified School Board from 1985 to 1994, and she won 47 percent of the vote for schools superintendent in her loss to Democratic incumbent Delaine Eastin last year.

The initiative she co-authored, Proposition 227, virtually eliminated bilingual education in public schools, passing with 61 percent of the vote.

Now Matta Tuchman is eyeing Washington D.C., from where she wants to lower taxes, reform health management organizations and reduce the size of government.

“A lot of people these days are so disenchanted (with politics).

I really offer a ray of hope of something new. And that challenge excites me,” she said.

Matta Tuchman admits her biggest challenge will be fund-raising, especially against an incumbent who twice defeated Bob Dornan and last year brought in $ 3 million.

“If its neck-and-neck in money, it will be a neck-and-neck race,” said political consultant Mike Farber, who ran an independent anti-Dornan campaign in the last two elections. “If the NRCC came to her, they will help her raise money. “

And then there are the demographics. Democrats account for 45.7 percent of the voters in the district; Republicans, 37.2 percent.

The district includes Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim, and has a large Hispanic population.

“We think she’s the ideal candidate for that district,” said NRCC spokeswoman Jill Schroeder. “She won that district when she ran statewide, she’s done a lot in the area, and she has good name ID. “

“I think this district is going to stay Democratic. Sanchez does her homework, is in the district a lot, and it will be a big uphill battle to beat her,” said Sandra Sutphen, a California State University, Fullerton political science professor focusing on women and politics.

“Tuchman’s issue was bilingual education, and now that’s ended.

Her one issue is dead. ” Candidates won’t officially file election papers until December.

Staff writer Martin Wisckol contributed to this report.

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