On Wednesday, the San Bernardino County assemblyman seized the opportunity to prove his point once more, this time by taking a stand against a bill to require condom use in pornographic movies.
"I have serious concerns about entire idea of the government being this deeply involved in people's private business," Donnelly said.
Donnelly has been adamant about scaling back government, particularly its gun restrictions. He deflects questions on same-sex marriage by saying the government shouldn't sanction anyone's weddings, gay or straight.
And earlier this month, he created a stir by casting the lone vote in the Assembly against a bill that would ban the state from selling or displaying the Confederate flag, saying he abhored racism but had to defend the constitutional right to free speech.
Neel Kashkari, his leading Republican rival, pounced on the Confederate flag issue. Donnelly, he argued, had offended African Americans and shown that he's ill-suited to serve as standard-bearer for a party that's fighting to expand its appeal beyond white conservatives.
But Kashkari was not so quick to take issue with Donnelly's stand on the condom measure.
"Neel hasn't reviewed the bill, so we don't have anything to add on this," Kashkari spokeswoman Jessica Hsiang Ng said in an email.
The bill's rationale is disease prevention, a cause that Los Angeles County voters embraced when they passed a ballot measure requiring condom use in porn movies.
But as Times writer Melanie Mason reported, Donnelly questioned how the law would be enforced.
"Unless you're planning to send enforcement agents to every single set -- I'm sure some people would enjoy that job," Donnelly said. "But the bottom line here is that this is a serious thing and if you're going to pass a mandate, it has to be enforced."
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, criticized Donnelly for "tittering."
"It's not private activity; it's commercial activity," said Weinstein, one of the bill's leading supporters. "It's a legal industry. I don't know why people who work in that industry shouldn't be afforded the same protections as people who work on a construction site, or on a regular movie set."