ANAHEIM — House Speaker Newt Gingrich informed party leaders that "there is now sufficient evidence to overturn" the election of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, GOP Party Chairman Michael Schroeder told the state Republican convention here Saturday.
Schroeder, who represents Robert K. Dornan in his bid to win back his seat from Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), made that claim as he introduced Dornan, who made a surprise appearance on the second day of the three-day gathering at the Anaheim Marriott.
Although Dornan provided more details at a news conference held later in the day, neither his claim nor Schroeder's was supported by any documentation. It marked the latest twist in the bitterly contested election that remains the subject of an investigation by the House Oversight Committee.
Dornan, who lost the November election in the 46th District to Sanchez by 984 votes, told reporters that he has learned that the probe has uncovered "bulletproof" evidence of between 1,200 and 1,500 fraudulent votes cast--more than enough to sway the outcome.
But it remained unclear Saturday whether the claims signaled a turning point in the House probe, or whether it was more of the same rhetoric that has dominated the debate. House committee officials have refused to discuss the details of their investigation.
A Sanchez spokesman called the investigation a farce and said that if an unbiased investigation shows enough evidence of voter fraud to change the outcome, "Loretta Sanchez would demand a new election."
That's just what Dornan predicted his former congressional colleagues would do before adjourning in November.
During the afternoon session of the convention, which is coincidentally meeting in the district that Dornan once represented, he told the audience of about 120 people that a committee staffer told him there actually are sufficient fraudulent votes to "reseat" the former congressman.
During the news conference, Dornan put the total number of allegedly "provable" fraudulent votes at about 3,000, a sizable enough number that his supporters say would justify Congress not only ousting Sanchez but seating him without a new election.
However, Dornan predicted his colleagues would rather "vote for a new election" than take the political heat.
Schroeder introduced Dornan as "our congressman-elect and our congressman in exile."
Schroeder rallied the semiannual GOP conclave by insisting the Republican Party "would not go quietly into the night" and be cowed by charges that to oust Sanchez would "alienate Hispanics and alienate women."
At one point, Schroeder told those die-hards who remained in the hall that "some suggest we should drop it." Most yelled back, "No, no way!"
"We are going to draw a line in the sand when Democrats try to steal our elections," Schroeder said, and not cease "until the election is corrected and the laws are changed."
At issue is whether illegal votes were cast, and for whom. Dornan has long contended that efforts to recruit new minority voters for Sanchez helped result in voting irregularities that cost him the election. Sanchez's campaign hotly disputes that.
Sanchez spokesman John Shallman said that if Republicans can show there are 984 individuals who voted fraudulently and that they cast ballots for Sanchez, then there should be a new election.
However, he said Sanchez and Democrats have reservations about the objectivity of the investigation.
"Thus far, the investigation has been anything but fair," he said. "It has been a farce."
Dornan was received warmly at the convention, though organizers stashed him in a staff room for about 90 minutes after he arrived at the hotel, despite reporters' efforts to meet with him.
A staffer said party leaders did not want to detract from a speech being given by former Vice President Dan Quayle.
When Dornan called on delegates, there were only a remnant left in the hall from the 850 that heard Quayle. He made a pitch for the resolution coming up today that asks Congress to call for a new election in the Dornan-Sanchez dispute.
Dornan also said he is considering running for his seat in 1998 as "a matter of honor" because of the recent vote by 111 Republicans who joined Democrats in barring him from the House floor.
He received a standing ovation and several delegates embraced him.
Speaking about the months since his ouster, Dornan said it has been frustrating, but he praised Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi for investigating the voter fraud allegations.