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At GOP Rally in O.C., Gingrich Asks to Send ‘B-1 Bob’ Back to Congress

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Apparently aiming to mend fences, House Speaker Newt Gingrich extolled Republicans to support members of their own party, including Robert K. Dornan, at a GOP unity rally Monday at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

“There is one more incumbent who should be up here,” Gingrich told the wildly cheering crowd of more than 5,000 Republicans at the outdoor rally, sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We are dedicated to electing Bob Dornan and returning him to his seat in the House. I believe that B-1 Bob has one more mission to run for his country.”

Dornan, seated in the audience, stood up beaming, saluted Gingrich and waved to supporters. “Everything is hunky-dory,” he said later.

Gingrich’s statement appeared to patch up a feud between the two men in recent weeks over campaign financing.

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The disagreement between Dornan and Gingrich grew out of Dornan’s $464,000 challenge of his 1996 defeat by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). In a blow to the former congressman’s efforts to return to office, the House leadership recently said it may not reimburse him or Sanchez for the cost of that challenge.

The failure to repay the money, Dornan said at the time, set “a bad precedent for the country” and hurt his bid to unseat Sanchez this fall. His campaign is almost out of money, while Sanchez has more than $1 million in the bank for her reelection effort. Dornan has said that he was counting on being reimbursed as part of his funding for the rematch.

“My [donor] list is close to tapped out,” he said. “I do not foresee how in 104 days I can raise enough money to be competitive with $1 million in cash.”

Dornan’s initial reaction to the possibility of not being reimbursed was to threaten to boycott Monday’s rally. Later he softened, however, after a Gingrich spokesman said that “you can’t have an Orange County Republican rally without Bob Dornan” and intimated that the party would seek other ways of funding the former congressman’s effort to regain the congressional seat in central Orange County.

On Monday, Dornan said that his decision to attend the rally was cemented by a phone call from Gingrich over the weekend. “It was just a snafu,” he said of what he had earlier considered a snub.

Dornan said he is still adamant, however, that he be reimbursed. “They’ve got to give me that money,” he said. “I’m not a happy camper until I get that money back.”


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