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February 26, 2004
Blast From The Past

Just when you thought it was safe to go to Orange County, he's back:

Now, eight years out of office and with a stint as a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host under his belt, the 70-year-old [Robert] Dornan attempts a return to the political stage by seeking the GOP nomination in next week's primary for the 46th Congressional District, which stretches from Palos Verdes Estates to Newport Beach.

His opponent: veteran incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), a former friend whose views on defense, the economy and social issues are very similar to his own.

B-1 Bob, as he once insisted on calling himself during his nine terms in the House, spent 18 years as an embarassment to Orange County Republicans. Dornan's schtick was wearing mortally thin when Loretta Sanchez challenged him in 1994. While it's true that his district had morphed demographically over the years, Dornan still could have won his district had it not been for Proposition 187, which would have denied government services such as education and vaccinations to undocumented workers and which energized the Latino community to come to the polls, and Dornan's personality.

The thin margin of loss in the race drove Dornan to take his challenge to the House floor, demanding that Sanchez be denied a seat and a special election be called due to what Dornan saw as election fraud. And his son Marc, who alleges that Republicans turned their back on his father, may be right; Republicans had taken control of the House for the first time in decades and could have stuck to a party-line vote and refused to seat Sanchez.

However, as someone who was on the periphery of Orange County politics at the time, I can assure you that B-1 Bob had burned most of his bridges with the Republicans, dancing arrogantly to his own tune and missing few opportunities to embarass their leadership. My father and I used to argue about Dornan at every election, but not because Dad liked him -- he just thought there was no alternative. I argued that the Republican establishment should have been grooming a more serious candidate, i.e., one who didn't assault other Congressmen on the House floor and who didn't sneeringly deride other Republicans, in order to provide that alternative. No one liked the guy when he won election -- his arrogance and high-handedness were well known and experienced often within the party. Losing to a first-time amateur like Sanchez didn't make Republicans any more fond of him. There's no denying that Republicans deserved to lose that seat by holding their noses and enabling Dornan to stay in office.

And now B-1 Bob wants back in, taking on another Republican instead of running against Sanchez, and he wonders why Republicans dislike him. Dornan learned nothing from his years in Congress or his years in exile, it seems.

Correction: Dornan lost in 1996, not 1994, as was his Presidential run, although I could have sworn he ran the first time in 1988. Thanks to Simon for the correction and the background (see comments).

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 26, 2004 6:19 AM

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