Calling Carl DeMaio “the 900-pound gorilla from the GOP,” congressional rival Kirk Jorgensen on Monday told Tea Party members and fellow Republicans that the failed San Diego mayor hopeful should be seen as a threat to the party.

“I’m not here to bad-mouth Carl DeMaio,” said Jorgensen, one of three Republicans vying against Democratic incumbent Scott Peters in the June primary. The top two vote-getters advance to the November election.

“My family voted for him for mayor. My parents wrote him checks,” Jorgensen, 43, told an audience of 45 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5867 in Lakeside. “But Congress is not about pensions and potholes. Congress is for big boys.”

Jorgensen, a former Marine and CIA officer endorsed by the East County chapter of the California Republican Assembly, said DeMaio “isn’t just running as a Republican candidate. He’s running to change the Republican Party” and overturn its long stance against abortion.

“If Republicans don’t stand up for the unborn and the elderly, who [will]?” Jorgensen said at the 90-minute forum. “And if we don’t stand for family values, who will?”

DeMaio publicly supports same-sex marriage as a gay man as well as abortion rights, but Jorgensen said: “If you tell me you’ve found a fiscally conservative social liberal, I’ll tell you you’ve found a unicorn. They do not exist.”

Jorgensen, a political novice who has taken a pledge not to serve more than three terms, ventured outside the “swing” 52nd District 15 days before the June 3 primary.

He said he needed only $6,000 to $7,000 to achieve his fund-raising goals. (His campaign has raised or gotten loans totaling about $300,000, far short of the $2 million totals of Peters and DeMaio, who has the official county GOP endorsement.)

He touted his endorsements by Chargers quarterback Phil Rivers as well as former U.S. Rep. Duncan L. Hunter and his son Duncan D. Hunter, who represents Lakeside in the 50th District.

But Jorgensen, who also faces Encinitas surgeon Fred Simon in the primary, said few know of his backers because of media opposition.

“The U-T actually has a blackout on our campaign,” Jorgensen said. “I can’t even get on the radio stations because Roger Hedgecock sent me an email a year ago saying he won’t have me on [his nationally syndicated radio show] since he supports Carl DeMaio.”

Jorgensen later noted that he had been on Mike Slater’s local KFMB radio show Monday morning. Hedgecock’s show, in the afternoon, also is heard on KFMB in San Diego. The U-T featured Jorgensen and Simon in a lengthy story April 25.

Jorgensen said his first step after being elected to Congress would be to “find Democrats willing to work with me” on such issues as cutting regulations that hamper business, but not those rules involving health and the environment. He’d support repeal of Obamacare, however, and act to end the Department of Education.

He also warned against showing disrespect for the president, saying “you’ll never hear me referring to President Obama as Obama.” And he said candidates should cite facts rather that use “8-second sound bites and name-calling in order to motivate our base.”

Jorgensen was the first of seven candidates to address the group, assembled in a small room adjacent to a larger one where Lakeside Boy Scout Troop 346 was holding its weekly meeting.

Others were Superior Court judge candidates (for different seats) Ken Gosselin and Paul Ware, incumbent County Assessor Ernest Dronenburg, 50th District Libertarian congressional candidate Michael Benoit, 53rd District congressional candidate and teacher Joel Marchese and San Diego Community College District board hopeful Donna Woodrum.

The primary focus of Monday night’s forum was a panel addressing the topic “How to counter the bigotry on the left,” with local California Republican Assembly president Sylvia Sullivan introducing three political experts.

They were Proposition 8 advocate Pastor Chris Clark of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church, fellow anti-abortion activist Mary Moran of Ramona and Republican activist and blogger Barry Jantz, a former La Mesa councilman who as CEO of the Grossmont Healthcare District separately made a pitch to approve Proposition H on the June ballot.

Said Clark: “Right is right and truth is truth. … I find God’s truth in the Bible. It speaks to every issue.”

Said Moran: “Our religious freedom is under attack. .. The government is truly running amuck.”

Said Jantz: “It’s harder for [liberals] to attack you when they see you as a person.”

Clark agreed, saying: “Stop the name-calling and 8-second sound bites. It’s remarkable how people can be disarmed.”

And Moran advised conservatives to approach their ideological adversaries with respect and answer their “loaded” questions with questions [“What do you mean by equality?”].

Calling herself a practicing Catholic, Moran said the aim isn’t to convert liberals immediately as much as to “plant a seed” of thought that leads to change.

“God will do that,” she said.