Lawmaker Targeted 2 Colleagues : Politics: Memo by Assemblyman William P. Baker sought anti-abortion group’s aid in defeating fellow Republicans who support abortion rights.
A leading Republican assemblyman has called on a Washington-based anti-abortion group to help defeat two of his fellow GOP lawmakers in the June 5 primary because they support the right of women to have abortions, according to a confidential memorandum.
In the strongly worded memo to the Family Research Council, Assemblyman William P. Baker of Danville urged the group’s president to direct campaign contributions to anti-abortion candidates opposing Assemblywomen Sunny Mojonnier of Encinitas and Tricia Hunter of Bonita.
Baker, who is vice chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and a member of Republican leader Ross Johnson’s inner circle, also supported anti-abortion candidates in three Los Angeles County races in which there are no incumbents and a candidate in a hotly contested Assembly race in Orange County. And he endorsed a fellow Republican incumbent who is facing a tough primary challenge.
But it was the attack on Mojonnier and Hunter that was most unusual, because party leaders rarely seek to defeat their own rank-and-file members in primary races. Baker acknowledged as much in a postscript to the missive, in which he wrote:
“Please destroy this letter after reviewing it. It is unpolitic to discuss the reelection campaign of Republican incumbents.”
The letter’s disclosure marks the second time in a month that the outspoken Baker has been in the middle of a controversy over his strident anti-abortion politics. He recently had to apologize to a group of high school students from his district after he introduced them on the Assembly floor as “survivors of abortion.”
The April 30 letter, addressed to Family Research Council President Gary Bauer, was mailed anonymously to The Times Sacramento Bureau. Baker could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Bauer, contacted at the group’s Washington headquarters, acknowledged receiving the memo and said he met with Baker in late April. Bauer said he told Baker that his group does not get involved in partisan political campaigns.
“We certainly have an interest in elections all over the country,” said Bauer, who was an aide to former President Ronald Reagan. “But we are a tax-exempt organization. We can’t endorse candidates or make expenditures on behalf of a candidate in an election.”
Bauer described his organization as a “think tank” and lobbying group involved in such issues as child care and pornography as well as abortion.
In the memo, Baker told Bauer that the group could get instant recognition and “reshape the political landscape” in California if it would spend money on the six Assembly primaries that he targeted. “You will elect six pro-lifers where there might have been six abortionists,” Baker wrote.
Baker called Mojonnier “one of the most liberal” Republicans in the Assembly and said she is in a tough reelection fight because of her “lackluster legislative service” and “allegations of financial improprieties.”
Baker endorsed Poway school board member Stan Rodkin but said Mojonnier would probably survive because “her close relationship to Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) will translate into a considerable fund-raising advantage.”
Baker described Assemblywoman Hunter as a “pro-abortion feminist” and pointed out that she won a tumultuous special election race last year with the help of the California Nurses Assn. and gay rights organizations. He said Hunter’s foe, Connie Youngkin, has “proven her commitment to the rights of the unborn by serving time in jail” for participating in an anti-abortion protest.
Hunter said Thursday that she was “surprised” by Baker’s letter and warned that this clandestine appeal to defeat Republican incumbents was counterproductive to the party’s goal of adding more members to the Legislature and electing U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) governor.
Mojonnier could not be reached Thursday, but a campaign aide said Baker had spoken to Mojonnier, apologized and volunteered to campaign for her.
In his memo, Baker also discussed two Orange County races, including the race to replace Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Los Alamitos) in the 58th District.
Brown’s announcement that he would not seek reelection has opened the door to five GOP candidates in the staunchly Republican district, and Baker said the contest should be a top priority for anti-abortion forces.
Baker’s memo urged independent donations from anti-abortion forces to one of the candidates, Huntington Beach Mayor Thomas J. Mays, whom Baker described as “a dependable conservative and a pro-lifer.”
“Moreover, he (Mays) is considered a local hero for his handling of the oil spill and has by far the highest name identification of any of the candidates,” Baker said in his memo.
Baker also mentioned the race involving Assemblyman Curt Pringle in the 72nd District. The defeat of Pringle (R-Garden Grove) is the National Abortion Rights Action League’s “number one goal for the western U.S. in 1990,” he wrote.
But Baker also noted that there have been “significant” gains in Republican voter registration in the district and that Pringle “has been the beneficiary of a rough internecine feud between Democrat challengers” Tom Umberg and Jerry Yudelson.
Times staff writers Mark Gladstone and Ralph Frammolino contributed to this article.