HISPANIC VOTERS in California's Orange County recently gave Congressman Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) notice of their increased political clout.

The nine-term legislator—a leading pro-life advocate in Congress— was unseated by Loretta Sanchez, a Hispanic who ran as a Democrat. Dornan, a former Air Force pilot and outspoken critic of President Bill Clinton's morals, strongly appealed to white conservatives and Vietnamese in a district where Hispanics are nearly half the population.

Aleading advocate of defense spending, Dornan lost the election by a few hundred votes. One of the election's ironies is that the congressman helped to ensure that abortions aren't performed in military hospitals overseas and promoted pro-life legislation, but the largely Catholic Hispanic electorate appear to have been responsible for voting the staunch Catholic out of office.

While many Catholics care deeply about pro-life issues—and the bishops and Pope have identified it as the most important moral issue today— many Hispanics appear to put other issues ahead of abortion. Over 70 percent of Hispanics voted to reelect President Clinton on Nov. 5 out of concern for the GOP's threats to cut immigration, eradicate affirmative action and reduce welfare benefits for immigrants, according to exit polls.

By the year 2050, Hispanics will comprise at least 20 percent of the U.S. population, making them the largest minority group in the country.

— Bill Murray