A week before Rep. Robert K. Dornan announced his plans to run simultaneously for the GOP presidential nomination and reelection to his central Orange County seat, two dozen Republican members of the California congressional delegation signed a letter asking him to stay in Congress.
While not asking him to drop his presidential bid, Dornan's Republican colleagues said the Garden Grove conservative should seek "at least one more term" to the House. Dornan will be asking voters for a 10th term.
"While we applaud your [presidential campaign] efforts, we are deeply concerned that your pursuit of the White House, your long-time commitment to a citizen legislature, or your desire to pursue another career may result in your departure from Congress at a time when we cannot afford to lose your leadership, expertise or passion," stated the letter, which included the signatures of the five other Orange County representatives.
The letter, dated Oct. 5, was written at a time when Dornan was deciding whether to keep his 1994 campaign pledge not to seek reelection to his district seat, stay in the presidential race and then pursue a radio talk show (assuming his presidential bid fails). After learning that California state law allowed him to pursue both the GOP nomination and the congressional seat simultaneously, Dornan announced during a nationally televised debate in New Hampshire last Wednesday that he would campaign for both.
On Friday, Dornan faxed to the media the letter from his California colleagues, which praises his leadership on defense and national security issues. He recently led the defeat of the defense appropriations bill, which included his own pet projects, because the final version did not contain an anti-abortion provision he had authored.
But while praising him publicly, members of the delegation have privately made light of Dornan's presidential campaign.
At the bottom of the pack in fund raising and in public opinion polls, Dornan himself has conceded the long odds of a successful presidential campaign, but has promised to stay in through the end of February, after key primaries and caucuses are held, to focus the debate on socially conservative issues.
Local Democrats hope to capitalize on Dornan's absence from the district as they challenge his congressional reelection bid.