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Gingrich Calls Dornan, Promises His Support

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert K. Dornan got the call Friday he’s been waiting for: House Speaker Newt Gingrich invited him to a Republican unity rally Monday in Costa Mesa and pledged his support for Dornan’s campaign to regain his congressional seat.

Dornan said Gingrich promised to push for reimbursement of the Garden Grove candidate’s costs for challenging the 1996 election, in which Democrat Loretta Sanchez upset Dornan by a slim margin in the central Orange County district.

Earlier this week, House leadership said that neither Dornan nor Sanchez would be reimbursed. But Jason Poblete, spokesman for the House Oversight Committee, said Friday that the committee will make the final determination.

A decision, though, isn’t expected until after Congress returns July 14 from its summer recess.

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Dornan is seeking $464,000, which he said he needs for a campaign that is nearly out of money. “I’m as close as you can get to no money with 130 days to go,” he said.

Sanchez has asked for $421,000 to cover her costs in defeating Dornan’s challenge. She can’t use that money for her campaign because it came from a separate account, but she has about $1 million in her war chest.

Sanchez spokesman Lee Godown said Friday that his office has heard both that she won’t be reimbursed and that she will be. “We’ll believe it when we see it,” he said.

Dornan contested the election, alleging that at least 2,500 illegal votes were cast, including those from Latino voters who registered before becoming U.S. citizens. A House committee found that 748 improper votes were cast, not enough to overturn the 984-vote margin.

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Dornan, who has been critical of Gingrich, was elated with the speaker’s call.

“I said, ‘Newt, it’s time for you to bring me in from the cold,’ ” Dornan said from his Garden Grove campaign office. “Newt said, ‘We want you back in Congress.’ ”

Gingrich was traveling Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Last week, Dornan threatened to boycott the unity rally, saying he hadn’t been invited. He challenged the speaker to return his calls.

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Dornan said he received an invitation in the mail Thursday from county Republican Party Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes. He noted that his longtime district director and GOP central committee member, Patricia Fanelli, received her invitation three weeks ago from Gingrich’s office.

“I’m going,” he said. “I wasn’t being a prima donna in asking Newt to call me. I just wanted him to return my call--pointing out to him that I hadn’t been invited yet.”


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