Just a little more than two months ago, Rep. Robert K. Dornan was preparing for the campaign fight of his life against Democrat Ron Kovic, a well-known and potentially well-financed opponent whose political views are the antithesis of Dornan's.
But Kovic, the Vietnam veteran whose life story is told in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," decided not to run at the last minute.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 22, 1990 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Column; Brief; Correction
Politics--Congressional candidate Art Hoffmann's name was misspelled in a story Sunday. Hoffmann is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Garden Grove) in November.
In the wake of Kovic's decision, Democrats turned to Planned Parenthood official Barbara Jackson, who is also the political opposite of the conservative Dornan (R-Garden Grove).
But Jackson also dropped out of the race, although her decision came too late to keep her name off the June 5 ballot. That left Dornan, who is unopposed in the primary, with potentially only one Democratic opponent next fall: Art Hoffman, a supporter of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.
Orange County Democrats are so concerned that Hoffman might be their party's standard-bearer in the 38th Congressional District that they have endorsed Jackson, even though she has withdrawn from the race.
In contrast to 1988, when there were two open congressional seats in Orange County and millions of dollars were spent on the campaigns, the 1990 congressional primary campaigns have been relatively quiet.
None of the other Republican incumbents whose districts include Orange County--Reps. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside), C. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Lomita) and William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton)--are facing a primary challenge. And there are only two contested Democratic primaries in the county's five congressional districts.
Packard, whose 43rd District includes San Clemente, will not have to face a Democratic opponent in the fall because one potential challenger was found to be ineligible. Eugene C. Gratz, an attorney from Laguna Beach, is the only Democratic candidate in the 40th District. He will be competing against Cox, who is completing his first term in office, in November.
Meanwhile, three Democrats are battling for the right to challenge Rohrabacher, whose 42nd District includes Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley, and four are seeking the nomination to run against Dannemeyer in the 39th District.
In the 42nd District, one of the Democrats is the man Rohrabacher defeated in the last general election, Guy C. Kimbrough. Rohrabacher won that race by a margin of 64% to 33%, spending almost $500,000 to Kimbrough's $12,000.
Rohrabacher's 42nd District stretches along the coast from Huntington Beach north to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The district is predominantly Republican, with a GOP edge in registration of about 53% to 36%.
Despite his loss in 1988, Kimbrough, a political science instructor from Huntington Beach, said he received more votes than any Democrat seeking the seat since 1978. And building on his recognition from the last race, Kimbrough said he believes he can do better this year.
In his first term, Rohrabacher has received much attention for his opposition to the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a leader in the fight to cut funding for the program after a scandal was sparked last year when critics said an art display funded by the NEA was obscene.
For that reason, Kimbrough and the other Democrats charge that Rohrabacher is not representing the issues important to his district.
"I have yet to meet a Republican who is not really angry at Dana Rohrabacher," said another Democratic candidate, Bryan W. Stevens, a retired high school teacher from Rolling Hills Estates. "He is associated with Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), and (Helms) is the No. 1 evil in the country."
The other Democrat in the race is James Cavuoto, a publisher of periodicals and literature related to computers. Cavuoto's edge in the primary has been his endorsement by the state Democratic Party.
On the issues, the positions of all three Democrats are similar. All three support a ban on additional offshore drilling and a phase-out of existing wells. Rohrabacher supports additional wells if they are approved by the nearest community.
All three Democrats favor abortion rights, while Rohrabacher opposes legal abortion. And all three Democrats would favor some form of higher taxes to reduce the deficit. Rohrabacher opposes any increase.
Dannemeyer's 39th District covers Orange County's northeast corner, including Orange, Fullerton, Brea and Yorba Linda. Republicans in the district also hold an edge in registered voters by 57% to 34%.
For several years, Dannemeyer has been most active in legislation calling for the isolation of AIDS patients and opposing gay rights laws. For that reason, he is also being criticized by the four candidates for the Democratic nomination for not representing issues important to the district.
"The people deserve better service than he has given them," said Democrat Anthony J. Roberts of Brea, owner of a bagel bakery. "It is the job of government officials to work to end discrimination, not promote it."