Seeking revenge for June's primary election challenge, Rep. Robert K. Dornan is opposing the appointment of a veteran political consultant to the state Commission on the Status of Women.
Dornan, a Garden Grove Republican, is incensed about Gov. Pete Wilson's nomination of Eileen Padberg to the state panel, which will be considered at a Wednesday hearing of the state Senate's Rules Committee in Sacramento.
Never mind that committee staffers and the governor's office say he has no chance of blocking the appointment. It was Padberg who oversaw former Superior Court Judge Judith Ryan's June primary challenge to Dornan, a four-term congressman, and he has not forgotten Padberg's role.
Dornan garnered 60% of the primary vote to Ryan's 40%, but the race marked the first time he had been challenged by a candidate from his own party.
In an Aug. 12 letter to Senate Rules Committee Chairman David A. Roberti, in which Dornan asks permission to testify against Padberg, the law-and-order conservative called her a "source of vicious lies" about him and his family. Dornan also blamed her for political mailings demeaning to his Catholic faith, and contended that she hired campaign workers who "trespassed" on his property to photograph his house for a campaign brochure.
Dornan, on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Houston on Wednesday night, said Padberg "trespassed on my property and brags about it." In his letter to Roberti, Dornan added that he is "currently in the process of filing misdemeanor charges with a Virginia law enforcement agency."
Since sending the letter, Dornan canceled plans to appear at Padberg's hearing because of scheduling conflicts.
Padberg, in an interview, branded Dornan a "jerk" and a "bully."
"He reminds me of the kid in the schoolyard who tries to steal your lunch money," Padberg said. "Finally someone stands up to him and he turns tail and runs. Someone just has to stand up to him and I will. He's just a damn bully."
Dornan responded hotly Wednesday night.
"Jerk is too nice a word for her," Dornan said. "And calling me a bully is ridiculous. She's the bully--a female, foul-mouthed bully. And let me tell you, her campaign bullying days are over."
Padberg specifically denied that trespassing occurred when photographers snapped pictures of Dornan's Virginia home. "You can tell that nobody was on his property when the pictures were taken. . . . I hope he does sue. I'd love it."
Padberg said she did not know what Dornan was referring to when he wrote about lies concerning his family.
"You know, (Dornan) left Orange County on June 4 and has not been back since," Padberg said. ". . . He ought to be helping his district instead of bullying. . . ." Dornan said Wednesday night he had two appearances on the day of Padberg's hearing and would not rearrange them.
"I've got bigger fish to fry than Eileen Padberg," Dornan said, his voice hoarse from days of speaking over the din of the convention crowd. "She is the most disliked, universally loathed consultant in Orange County. I'm not going to waste my time on her."
Padberg needs three of the Rules Committee's five votes for her appointment to proceed before going to the full Senate.
Bob Pipkin, the governor's spokesman, said the Wilson Administration is aware of Dornan's letter but won't withdraw its support of Padberg. He said the governor expects confirmation both by the Rules Committee and the full Senate.
Dornan and Wilson come from different wings of the Republican Party and aren't close friends.
Padberg previously managed Sheriff Brad Gates' political campaigns and gained national media exposure as actor Clint Eastwood's political consultant when he ran successfully for mayor of Carmel. She has tangled repeatedly with Dornan and county GOP Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes, in part over Padberg's and Ryan's decision to go after Dornan in last June's primary election.
In a scathing letter published in The Times after the election, Padberg accused Dornan and Fuentes of threatening her with statements such as, "You will never work again."
Padberg also has sparred with Dornan and Fuentes on the abortion issue. Padberg favors abortion rights and agreed with First Lady Barbara Bush's position that the issue should not be in the GOP platform. Dornan and Fuentes are ardent abortion foes.