In the 1986 general election in the 38th Congressional District, The Times made no endorsement. We could not in good conscience recommend either the incumbent, Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), or his Democratic challenger.
We still cannot in good conscience recommend Dornan, but we can, and do, urge the election of his Democratic opponent, Jerry Yudelson.
Dornan continues to be caustic, at times outlandish and, worst of all, ineffective as a member of the House of Representatives. Most officeholders find a way to remain true to party policies and personal principles and still work with the opposition on legislation of value to their district or the nation. Dornan never bothered to learn how to do that.
But Yudelson offers the promise of being the kind of congressman who can be productive. If he was to replace Dornan in the House, all Orange County residents would be better served.
Yudelson, a management consultant to high-tech business firms, is an environmental engineer who has spent about 20 years working for environmental protection. He was an adviser on environmental and energy issues to former California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., the state Public Utilities Commission and the state Senate Committee on Long Range Planning. Those posts gave Yudelson invaluable experience in working with lawmakers in both parties and the private business sector; one result was an energy tax credit law, enacted with bipartisan support.
But Yudelson is not one-dimensional. He is bright and has an interest in tackling other major problems, including drug abuse and senior needs.
Unfortunately, voters in the 38th District have been all but frozen out of the campaign because Dornan's strategy is to ignore Yudelson. He has refused even to be interviewed about the election. By thumbing his nose at the elective process, Dornan conveniently avoids having to explain and discuss issues that properly should be before constituents at election time.
Between elections, Dornan is seldom seen in his district, preferring to soak up attention at national and international levels and leave district matters to his staff. Now his arrogant attitude is keeping him away from answering to voters at election time. Dornan did hold one fund-raising dinner featuring Oliver L. North, but it was held outside the 38th District, in Irvine.
Dornan further showed his preference for grabbing headlines over serving his constituents when he announced that he had donated his last two congressional pay raises to AIDS hospices. He later had to correct that and acknowledge that he had not yet donated the money but planned to personally give it to AIDS hospices operated in New York by Mother Teresa. He said the plan had yet to be carried out because his meeting with her was canceled when she became ill. Later he explained that the money was being held in a special account pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the pay raise. That money from the outset should more appropriately have been earmarked for AIDS patients--Dornan's constituents--who are dying in his district.
Some political observers have speculated that Dornan is trying to parlay his congressional seat into some high-ranking Cabinet-level post. Perhaps. But instead of being the 38th District representative in Washington, Dornan has become Washington's man in the district. Voters in the 38th District deserve much more personal and effective representation. They can get it Nov. 8 by voting for Jerry Yudelson.