Dobson's Army Loses Across Nation

Issa Defeated, Roukema Beats Challenger, James Thrown into Run-Off; "When Is the GOP Going to Get It?" Asks Log Cabin

June 3, 1998 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Tuesday was another day of reckoning for candidates across the country endorsed and supported by the political empire of far right activist James Dobson, leader of the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, and his political allies.

In California, millionaire Darrell Issa, endorsed by Dobson's PAC, resorted to gay-bashing late in his campaign and went down to defeat against Log Cabin-endorsed Matt Fong in the GOP Senate primary. Congresswoman Marge Roukema (R-NJ), a moderate on social issues, fought off an aggressive challenge by New Jersey Assemblyman Scott Garrett (R), who won backing from social conservatives allied with Dobson.

Most stunning were the results in Alabama, where incumbent Governor Fob James (R) failed to gain a majority of the vote and was forced into a run-off against GOP challenger Roy Blount. Dobson and his allies had said the election was a test of their political strength. The Associated Press reported that James' reelection campaign had become "a national crusade for religious conservatives, who view the outcome as a pivotal moment" for their movement. Eagle Forum Chair Phyllis Schlafly: "He's a recognized national leader and it would be a setback to our cause if he were defeated." Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell said a James loss in the GOP primary would be "a devastating blow to our pro-family causes."

Yesterday's primary results followed a series of disastrous losses previously in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Nebraska for Dobson's multi-million dollar campaign to dominate the 1998 Republican primaries. Most notable were the defeats of Tom Bordanaro in the special election for California's 22nd Congressional District, far right activist Perry Atkinson's crushing defeat in the GOP primary in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, and the third-place finish of Rep. Jon Christensen in the Nebraska GOP gubernatorial primary. In each defeat, Dobson's candidates were outpolled by social moderates, with Republican voters deciding each race.

"How many elections does James Dobson and his army have to lose before the Republican Party gets it?" asked Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "Entering into a Faustian bargain with someone who has a rule-or-ruin strategy will mean the end of a Republican majority. Defeat after defeat only drives the message home – the extreme right's social agenda does not pay politically, and it does not pay morally. The American people reject it for the right reasons."

"There is a message in this for any Republican out there who is thinking of sucking up to Dobson and his army for the rest of this election cycle -- you do so at your own risk," Tafel said. "The far right has become the kiss of death."

Dobson has led a national movement this year to force the Republican Party to adopt his far right social agenda, which includes attacking gays and lesbians on a number of legislative and political fronts. Dobson's strategy has included pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of far-right candidates in Republican primaries, targeting moderate Republicans for defeat. His political arm, the Campaign for Working Families PAC, is run by activist Gary Bauer, who also runs the anti-gay Family Research Council, and has threatened to mount his own presidential campaign in 2000 if the party does not adopt their agenda. Dobson also has warned the GOP Congressional leadership he will "go nuclear" on the party if they don't advance his legislative agenda.