New GOP Whip Visits County : Gingrich Credits Cox, Rohrabacher

Times Political Writer

Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican who last week took Washington by surprise when he won the House’s second-ranking leadership post, minority whip, said Thursday that Orange County’s two freshman congressmen were the key to his victory.

“I wouldn’t have won the whip race without them,” Gingrich said of Reps. C. Christopher Cox of Newport Beach and Dana Rohrabacher of Lomita.

Cox, the president of the House’s GOP freshman class, and Rohrabacher helped round up Republican votes for Gingrich, who won the post by a margin of 87 to 85. The county’s other three congressmen--Republicans William E. Dannemeyer of Fullerton, Robert K. Dornan of Fullerton and Ron Packard of Carlsbad--also voted for Gingrich.

Gingrich talked with reporters at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach while in Orange County to raise money for a political committee aimed at developing a field of GOP candidates able to run for higher offices. The committee also will try to head off Democratic efforts to redraw congressional district lines that favor Democrats following the 1990 census.


Post Formerly Cheney’s

Gingrich, 45, won the post formerly held by Rep. Dick Cheney of Wyoming, who was chosen by President Bush as defense secretary. Gingrich’s victory came over the opposition of House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois, who wanted the more traditional Rep. Edward Madigan, also of Illinois, to replace Cheney.

Gingrich’s election as whip signaled a more aggressive era among House Republicans, who are chafing at being in the minority for the last 35 years despite impressive victories in the White House.

“Forty-one out of the 45 years I’ve been alive, the Democrats have been in control of the House,” Gingrich said Thursday. He said the legislators who voted for him as whip “want energy and activism.”


As for the Democrats, Gingrich said he expects to appeal to them on the merits of Republican legislation. One of his jobs as whip will be to gather votes for Bush’s legislative proposals.

“Democrats are not going to vote against me because I don’t play golf with them,” Gingrich said. But he added, “I think I really anger the Democrats, especially Southern Democrats, because (they) know I intend to have their seats held by Republicans and that I’m not a get-along, go-along. I’m for a Republican majority.”

The congressman said he would be “the guy who will come in their district and explain how often they help the liberals.”

Elected to the House 10 years ago, Gingrich persuaded the House Ethics Committee to investigate House Speaker Jim Wright, an inquiry that has eroded the top House Democrat’s support among his colleagues.

Orange County developer Kathryn Thompson said she had planned a dinner for Gingrich long before his election as whip as part of an 11-city tour to promote the political committee. She said that growing interest in the wake of his victory increased attendance to about 50 people at the dinner she hosted.