updated 3/5/2007 6:49:42 PM ET 2007-03-05T23:49:42

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday to try to resolve an embarrassing leadership dispute that led one lawmaker to quit the group.

Among the options is a power-sharing arrangement that would dilute the authority of the caucus’ controversial chairman, Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.

So far, Baca has resisted any changes to the caucus’ power structure, according to caucus members and staff. Baca is under fire from female lawmakers, including fellow California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who quit the 21-member, all-Democratic group after accusing Baca of calling her a “whore.”

Baca denies that. A meeting last Thursday broke up without resolution or a vote, and afterward Baca insisted that he was still in charge and that he was focusing on the future.
“I’m still the chair. ... I was elected in a Democratic process,” Baca said. “We’ve got a lot of high priorities and we need to stay focused.”

Sanchez has said she’ll rejoin the group only if Baca is out as chair, and other members haven’t ruled out quitting. Baca was supported by only one of six women in the caucus when he was elected chairman in November, and Sanchez, her sister Rep. Linda Sanchez, and two others subsequently contested the election procedure and asked for a new secret-ballot vote.

Female caucus members have complained of being ignored and disrespected.

In another episode a year ago, six caucus members — including Loretta and Linda Sanchez — cut ties to the group’s campaign arm after it helped finance the unsuccessful campaigns of Baca’s two sons for seats in the California Legislature.

Baca defended the decision to give money to them and other nonfederal candidates, saying the caucus should seek to build a farm team. Opponents said the focus instead should be on electing Latino House members.

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