STOCKTON — Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich has vowed to resign as state Republican Party chairman and declare his candidacy for next year's U.S. Senate race within three months.
State Sen. Ed Davis of Chatsworth, who in opinion polls leads roughly a dozen GOP hopefuls for the Senate nomination, said Saturday he expects Antonovich to be his toughest competitor for the chance to challenge the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston.
"I really see the serious candidates being Antonovich-Davis," Davis said at a GOP-sponsored forum attended by eight of the would-be challengers.
Antonovich said: "I met with the governor . . . and discussed my campaign and advised him that I will be stepping down as party chairman to run for the U.S Senate. I will be announcing within the next 90 days."
Antonovich said Russo, Watts & Rollins Inc., a political consulting firm with close ties to both Gov. George Deukmejian and President Reagan, will manage his Senate campaign.
Davis said he does not expect Antonovich to change his mind about running for the Senate unless Deukmejian persuades him to run for lieutenant governor.
Some consider Deukmejian a potential candidate for the vice presidency in 1988, but he would not be likely to leave office during a second term if his successor were not philosophically aligned with him. Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy is expected to run for reelection next year.
Deukmejian has taken a neutral position in the race for a GOP challenger to McCarthy. Those showing an interest in the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor include former Lt. Gov. Mike Curb, Assemblyman Don Sebastiani of Sonoma, state Sen. H. L. (Bill) Richardson of Glendora and Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande.
Other would-be Cranston challengers at the forum included U.S. Reps. Bobbi Fiedler of Northridge, William Dannemeyer of Fullerton, Daniel Lungren of Long Beach and Ed Zschau of Los Altos, Los Angeles television commentator Bruce Herschensohn and Assemblyman Robert Naylor of Menlo Park.
Zschau, who relishes singing a campaign theme song that features the spelling of his name, recently won an endorsement and promise of substantial help from GOP financier David Packard, chairman of the Hewlett-Packard electronics firm.