It was fortunate for her that he did — "He saved my life," the woman said — and for Donnelly, perhaps, that his campaign videographer was standing by.
The Republican candidate for governor posted video of the incident on YouTube on Thursday. The headline: "Assemblyman Donnelly to the rescue!"
Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, is shown in the video performing the Heimlich maneuver on Adrienna Schabert, a supporter, at a meeting of Republican women in Ontario.
Schabert, 50, of West Sacramento, said Thursday that Donnelly was posing for photographs at a nearby table when she choked on a piece of her dinner roll.
"I couldn't get it out," she said. "I couldn't do anything, so I stood up ... He turned around and just went and did it."
In the video, Schabert sits down and thanks Donnelly, and he says, "Thank God."
Donnelly, who is wearing a cowboy hat, says, "I'm sorry if I did it too hard," and he goes on to empathize with the woman.
"My wife is always telling me to cut it into really tiny pieces," he says, "and I never listen."
Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, posted a link to the video on Twitter, giving Donnelly "sincere props ... for knowing and using Heimlich maneuver to help choking woman."
Donnelly is not the first politician to gain attention for using the maneuver. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee performed the Heimlich on a man at a Republican Party gathering in 2008.
And then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines in 2004 for helping a distressed swimmer while vacationing in Maui.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. AP Photo/Nick Ut