Bringing his national influence to bear in Orange County, well-known Christian psychologist James Dobson on Friday endorsed former GOP congressman Robert K. Dornan for election, saying Dornan represents anti-abortion and pro-family values.
"I rarely do political endorsements, but I am making an exception to personally endorse the honorable Bob Dornan because I believe in this man," Dobson wrote in a letter to the candidate.
The head of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family organization said, "I wish we had a dozen like him in Congress."
The backing comes as Dornan battles three primary opponents in next month's election in the district where he was upset two years ago by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). The primary is unusually tough for him, partly because many Republican Party leaders support rival Lisa Hughes, a family law attorney.
Hughes picked up a prominent supporter Friday, winning endorsement from Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs). Bono was elected to Congress last month to fill the vacancy created by the death of her husband, Sonny Bono.
The Dobson endorsement of Dornan is one of the first by the Christian leader, who has been looking for ways to translate his socially conservative influence to the political arena.
Dobson wields great sway among conservative organizations and an estimated 28 million Christians nationwide who listen to his syndicated radio and television shows, read his books and follow his column in newspapers.
One such organization is the Campaign for Working Families, an anti-abortion and pro-free enterprise political action committee that has spent significant sums in campaigns. It recently paid $250,000 in a Central California election to promote an anti-abortion candidate.
The group is meeting Monday to consider backing a dozen candidates, including Dornan, in primary races, said Peter Dickinson, the group's executive director. "An endorsement from Dr. Dobson carries great weight with voters throughout the country and with us," Dickinson said.
He said that Dobson just started this year to endorse Republican candidates in primaries.
Dobson, long allied with Working Families' chairman Gary Bauer, is featured this week in a U.S. News and World Report cover story that discusses his dissatisfaction with Republican leaders.
Dobson has threatened to leave the GOP if leaders do not push social issues--such as opposition to abortion and pornography--that have drawn the Christian right to the party and its candidates.
In endorsing Dornan, Dobson called the politician "a great friend of the family" and praised Dornan's support for "stopping the barbaric practice of abortion, opposing same-sex marriage and special rights for homosexuals, fighting against pornography, championing parental rights, including school choice, and winning much-needed family tax relief."
Dobson also gave Dornan a tape of a 30-second audio endorsement, which, the Dornan campaign said, would be used in radio advertisements. Copies of the letter and the tape were released by the campaign.
Neither Dornan nor Dobson could be reached for comment.
During his 18 years in Congress, Dornan was strident and hot-tongued--to the point of being rude--in his opposition to gay rights and abortion.
Hughes has said she personally opposes abortion and government funding for it but would permit "mature women" to have abortions during the first trimester.
Hughes said Bono is the featured guest at a $50-a-person fund-raiser at the $3-million Hughes home in Orange. The May 17 event will be hosted by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), California's senior Republican in Congress.