Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach) said Wednesday that he supports Irvine City Councilman C. David Baker in the crowded race to fill the seat he is vacating in the heavily Republican 40th Congresssional District.
Badham's endorsement is a significant boost for the campaign of the 36-year-old Baker.
"After all I've seen, heard, read and known about all the other candidates, I have a very high enthusiasm for Dave Baker as the kind of person who ought to represent this district in the Congress of the United States," said Badham, who will retire this year after his sixth congressional term.
Two other GOP candidates, former White House senior assistant counsel C. Christopher Cox, former White House senior assistant counsel, and John Hylton, an airline pilot, both of Newport Beach, had sought his endorsement, Badham said.
Baker said he does not believe that endorsements alone can turn an election but is confident that Badham's announcement will bring him the congressman's supporters.
"For Bob Badham to step up and say, 'I support Dave Baker' is a strong indication we'll get those folks as well," Baker said. "It's a nice credibility builder because here's a guy who--of all the people who might endorse us--has the greatest interest in who his successor might be. That personal vote of confidence, I've got to think, is worth something to Republican leadership and Republican voters as well."
Baker's campaign consultant, Frank Caterinicchio, said Badham's endorsement is important to Baker, who is viewed as a moderate Republican, "because it establishes his conservative credentials, and it will help him garner other endorsements and also raise money."
But Baker's chief rival for the GOP nomination in the 40th District, Newport Beach businessman Nathan Rosenberg, argued that the contest will not be decided by endorsements but by voters.
"It presents people with a clear choice," said Rosenberg, who challenged Badham unsuccessfully in the 1986 GOP primary. "They can have more of what they had, more politics as usual, or they can choose some new leadership, some new ideas and some hard work for the people of this district."
Rosenberg said he did not seek Badham's endorsement because "I did not think he would give it to me." He added, "Moreover, I wasn't that interested in his endorsement."
Rosenberg, 35, attempting to take advantage of the strength of his volunteer support, called upon Baker and the other Republicans in the race so far to qualify their candidacies for the ballot by gathering 3,000 signatures instead of paying the $895 filing fee.
Badham's endorsement is expected to be the first of several for Baker, who is the beneficiary of a desire by some Republican leaders to solidify the party behind one candidate in order to avoid a brutal GOP primary that could sap party resources.
But, as Badham pointed out, when there is an open seat, such efforts rarely work. This is especially so in the 40th District, which, Badham said, has the "discordant luxury that, almost no matter what happens, a Republican is going to be elected," giving "more impetus toward a more volatile and vitriolic primary."
Badham said he chose Baker from among the other candidates because he had worked with him over the years on issues concerning the district.
"He has in my view a kind of a gee-whiz attitude toward America," Badham said, "in addition to the fact that he has already contributed greatly to his community as a volunteer and as an elected official."
Other candidates for Badham's seat are also lining up their endorsements both inside and outside the 40th District.
Rosenberg, for example, has the endorsements of Rep. Jim Kolbe and U.S. Sen. John McCain, both Republicans from Arizona.
Cox, 35, has lined up the endorsement of former U.S. Court of Appeals Justice Robert H. Bork, President Reagan's defeated choice for the Supreme Court. Cox was among those in the White House who lobbied for Bork's Senate confirmation. Bork will appear at a March 9 fund-raiser for Cox.
In an effort to cement the conservative vote, Cox also announced last week the endorsements of Arthur Laffer, economist; Richard V. Allen, former Reagan national security adviser, and Daniel L. Casey, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, a lobbying organization. Locally, state Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) and Athalie Irvine Clarke of the prominent Irvine Co. family of Orange County have endorsed Cox.
Another candidate for the GOP nomination, Charles S. Devore, 25, a former Pentagon liaison to Congress, has been endorsed by Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense. Perle appeared at Devore's $50-per-person fund-raiser Wednesday at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa.