Saturday, August 5, 2017

Torrance Congressional Election 1980: The Firebrand Conservative vs. Hollywood Liberal Royalty

Election 1980.

Ronald Reagan was not just a stellar conservative candidate.

He brought up the ticket all over the country. Republicans were winning seats in some of the bluest areas, especially in California, particularly in Los Angeles County.

Bob Fiedler, a liberal Republican who had served on the Los Angeles Unified Board of Trustees, would sweep out a West Valley incumbent Democratic.

In fact, here's how things worked out in California in 1980 for the Congressional seats:

A net gain of three seat, including Duncan Hunter Senior, who would serve for 28 years in Congress.

But what happened in West Torrance?

B-One Bob held his own--again!--against the son of Gregory Peck.

Here's an account from the Washington Post covering the West Side district, which descended all the way down to the South Bay:

Before the election in 1976 as the Republican representatives from California's 27th Congressional District, Robert K. Dornan worked as an actor, television newscaster and talk show host. He is the nephew of the late actor Jack Haley.

Can you imagine a well-known name running for Congress as a Republican, and a conservative one?

That's exactly what Bob Dornan did.

Robert K. "B-One Bob" Dornan

Dornan's Democratic challenger in the Nov. 4 election is Carey Peck, the 31-year-old son of actor Gregory Peck. And voters in the district, which runs along Santa Monica Bay, include such luminaries as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.

Now think about this ...

Ronald Reagan was running for President that year. He won, of course.

But whom did he vote for Congress?

Bob Dornan! I can think of no higher honor than to receive the vote from the President in my bid for office.

So people here are calling this race "Star Wars." But "Jaws II" might be more apt.

This is a rerun of the 1978 race that Dornan, 47, won by just two points. And jaws are active in this campaign, pouring out oratory and occassionally drawing blood.

Notice the harsh sentiments used to depict Dornan. Unbelievable.

Voters here are concerned mostly about inflation. Peck is a self-described "fiscal conservative," who often sounds like a Republican unless he is talking about the two issues where his opponent and Dornan's normally conservative constituents part company: abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. One result is that issues aren't getting too much attention.

Abortion was a heated subject at this time, especially since the Supreme Court deliberately injected itself into the campaign. Inflation was the issue of the day, too, which meant that the massive influx of fiat money ended up driving up the cost of goods. This signature issue was hurting Britons as well, and it ushered in the Thatcher government in 1979.

As for the Equal Rights Amendment, this proposed constitutional amendment pitted Establishment Republicans against the conservative grassroots

The contest is a unique opportunity for a California Democrat, caught in the midst of the West's conservative tide and Reagan enthusiasm, to unseat an incumbent Republican. Thus it is no surprise that each of the candidates will raise and spend in the neighborhood of $400,000 apiece. What is surprising is the level of mud into which this campaign often sinks.

Really? The media do this all the time. They keep claiming such heated and hateful attacks are unprecedented. They only write this kind of rhetoric to sell papers. It's time for them to adopt a better schtick.

Carey Peck in more recent times

Dornan is one of California's most flamboyant politicians and is well known in his district. So he might have been expected to run the traditional incumbent's campaign, saying little about his opponent and leaving it to Peck to explain to the voters why they should oust their congressman in favor of a young man whose work experience consists mostly of the Peace Corps and a stint on Capitol Hill as a Senate aide.

Ugh. Carey Peck, the son of Hollywood royalty, was looking for an easy way into Congress.

But Bob Dornan cannot stop talking about Carey Peck.

The congressman claims that his opponent accepted an illegal campaign contribution. Peck denies it. The ex-convict who is alleged to have given the money to Peck later waffled on his story and now denies it. And the Justice Department says it has investigated the charge and found it false.

Eek! It was getting pretty heated pretty quickly, wasn't it? Then 1976 Election was the first time in nearly 20 years that the Westside/South Bay seat was open for election. The fight was more than heated. Dornan was used to fights then, and he was prepared for this one, too.

But Dornan, although he has pledged more than once that he will not repeat that accusation during this campaign, seems unable to let it go.

At a candidates' forum in the South Bay last Monday night Dornan and Peck shared a platform for the first time this year. It was Peck who first departed from the intended discussion of issues by stating that "one of the issues" he wanted to challenge the incumbent on was "his style of campaigning." 

Oh brother! Democrats once again raising alarm over the style rather than the substance of the campaign. Give me a break!

Carey Peck

In particular, Peck objected to Dornan having referred to him as a "sick, pompous little ass." Dornan subsequently told a reporter: "I never said that. Why would I call him sick? He's obviously a tall, healthy guy. What I said that he is a sycophant and a pompous little ass."

LOL! Good one. B-One Bob!

"And," Peck continued, "he attacked my father on the floor of the House. . . [he owes me] an apology."

B-One Bob with the El Camino College Republicans
(Credit: Armand Vaquer) 

Then it was Dornan's turn. He again brought up the illegal contribution matter. Dornan said he would file charges against Peck as soon as Ronald Reagan is elected president and gets rid of Jimmy Carter's "highly politicized" Justice Department.

Wow! Highly politicized Justice Department ... where have I heard this before? (Obama-Holder-Lynch)

Then he complained that Peck never called to congratulate him on election night in 1978. With that, the congressman angrily slapped a coin down on the table in front of Peck and said: "So here's a dime, character. Use it to call and congratulate me on Nov. 4." Peck just smiled.

The next day, Dornan admitted that the illegal contribution charge had "boomeranged" and done more damage to his campaign than to Peck's.

I wonder why there was such an obsession with this character and style campaign agenda?

Easy ... Democrats had nothing substantive to campaign on in 1980. There was widespread anger, and many Democrats were probably convinced that Jimmy the Peanut Farmer was going down. They could only imagine how bad it was going to be.

Dornan said he wished he had stayed away from the candidates' forum and "taken the flak for not showing up. Or maybe I should let him do a soft-shoe [sic] dance on my forehead and just restrain myself. But it is insufferable for him to ask me for an apology, when he owes me so many. And he uses those buzz words, 'He's attacked my family,' because he knows his father is a respected, elegant man."

Gregory Peck, Academy Award Winner
Father of Failed Democratic Congressional Candidate

Peck's campaign manager, Terry Pullan, concedes that his side needs to keep Dornan on the offensive. "If we win," Pullan says, "a lot of the credit will be due Bob Dornan."

They really believed that setting off Dornan was going to make him lose?

When Peck is not trying to goad his opponent into campaign theatrics, he is out in the precincts he has been walking for the better part of three years, saying the same words again and again: "Hi. I'm Carey Peck, I'm running for Congress. How're you doing? I hope you'll take the time to read the brochure, it's just a straightforward issues statement." Big smile. Extended hand. "Great to catch you at home. 'Bye."

That's part of the problem for Democrats in general, and I guess for Carey in particular.

Peck has walked so many precincts, rung so many doorbells and smiled at so many people that the faced become a blur. And sometimes skin blurs into fur, so that when a dog whose registered voter-owner is talking to the candidate barks for attention, Peck smiles down and says to the dog, "Hey, how're you doing?"

Oh brother! It's so obvious that WaPo Hate wanted Carey Peck to win. This is the least substantive piece of writing I have found yet.

B-One Bob meeting with volunteers at his Santa Monica Headquarters
(Credit: Armand Vaquer
But Peck stops short of giving the animal a brochure. And if the dog could talk, he probably wouldn't ask for one. He'd just ask that burning question that most humans keep asking this candidate: "Is Gregory Peck really your father?"

FYI: Dornan beat Peck a second time, and by a wider margin than in 1978.

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