Apr 17, 1992, Judy Mann — The Washington Post
Kathryn G. Thompson has built thousands of houses in Orange County, Calif. She’s been so successful that she was able to give $100,000 to the Republican National Committee in support of President Bush. She got a funny kind of thank you.
At a reception for “Team 100” contributors like herself, then-RNC Chairman Clayton Yeutter walked up and said: “And who do you belong to, little lady?” And with that, the former secretary of agriculture stepped in a rhinestone cow pie.
Thompson wrote about the incident in a February op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times. The RNC needs this kind of publicity like it needs another round of Supreme Court hearings. Then in March, Thompson signed on as the finance co-chairwoman for the campaign of Judith Ryan, a retired Superior Court judge who is challenging Rep. Robert K. Dornan in the Republican primary for California’s new 46th congressional district.
Dornan, one of the House’s leading opponents of abortion, is the author of the amendments to the District of Columbia appropriation bills that prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions for poor women in the nation’s capital.
Thompson has had no trouble figuring out why she should support a Republican woman who advocates abortion rights for Dornan’s seat. Women, she believes, can restore the competitive ethic to the nation. As she wrote in the Times: “I and many other successful women have developed something our leaders in this nation don’t have and desperately need: an ethic of success through struggle. We know that success requires some kind of change and understand that institutions not only inhibit the process of change but discourage the very idea.”
Ryan’s entry into the race is providing progressive, abortion-rights organizations with one of their best opportunities this year for bumping off a major foe. And Dornan is running scared. Never one to duck a fight, he has reacted so vengefully to this assault on his seat that his old sobriquet of “B-1 Bob” (earned through his support of the B-1 bomber) has been updated to “Bully Bob” in the Los Angeles press.
“He’s public enemy number one for women,” said Eileen Padberg, Ryan’s campaign manager. “They’ve done everything they can to keep us out of the race. He called and said he would have the White House call me. I’d have the wrath of the White House on my back. He said I’d never work for Republicans again. He’d have my RNC contract canceled. I said, ‘I never had an RNC contract. Those only go to the good ol’ boys, not the good ol’ girls.’ ”
Padberg said Ryan was able to raise $50,000 in the two weeks after she announced her candidacy on March 11. But Dornan still has formidable fund-raising strength among conservatives.
One group that is not giving Ryan money is the WISH List, a new group of Republican women who are supporting pro-choice Republican women. Victoria Toensing, a Washington lawyer and a founder of the WISH List, said the group never intended to support challengers to GOP incumbents, but would support pro-choice Republican women running for open seats and in general elections.
But Padberg, who said she was involved in some of the original discussions leading up to the group, said, “There are minute numbers of open districts. For them to think that did not include challenging incumbents, I don’t know where they are coming from. That was never part of the original conversations.”
What no one seems to dispute is that when Dornan got wind of the possibility that the WISH List would support Ryan, he confronted Republican women in Congress who back the group and secured their promise that they would not support a challenger against him.
Thus, Ryan is not going to get support from the Republican women who would seem to be her most likely allies. It doesn’t take much to figure out why Dornan is earning the “Bully Bob” moniker.
Ryan is expected to get support from the National Women’s Political Caucus when it meets next week to select the candidates it will help. The California branch of the caucus has recommended that Ryan be supported.
“No one sounds so astounded when men contest another man for a seat,” said caucus chairwoman Harriett Woods. “And the funding groups put their money behind the person who supports their positions.”
Kathryn Thompson understands this. Incumbents don’t have permanent title to their seats. Women who have the guts to go against them are the people who are going to revitalize democracy and bring new energy into an exhausted political process. They deserve all-out support from other Republican women. Wishing Dornan away won’t cut it.