Declaring that politics "really gets my juices going," former Rep. Jerry M. Patterson announced his political comeback Tuesday and said he is a candidate for the county Board of Supervisors.
Patterson, 51, moved to Anaheim over the weekend so he could run for the 4th District seat occupied for 16 years by Supervisor Ralph B. Clark, who has announced that he will not run for reelection.
Most Expensive Race
Patterson, a Democrat who was mayor of Santa Ana before being elected to Congress in 1974, was defeated in his 1984 reelection bid by Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) in the state's most expensive congressional campaign that year.
Patterson spent $698,747 to Dornan's $1 million and said Tuesday that he still owed $11,000 from that campaign.
Last year, Patterson worked as a Washington lawyer-lobbyist, an experience he characterized as lucrative but not fun.
"I've found in this past year that the thing that really gets my juices going, makes me feel good and makes me want to move forward and get up in the morning and feel good about going into your job is working in the area of the public service," Patterson said at a press conference.
The former congressman, in noting that the supervisor's post is nonpartisan, said he wanted to keep the campaign free from party politics even though his two announced opponents--Orange Mayor James H. Beam and Anaheim Mayor Don R. Roth--are Republicans.
Yet Patterson said his party affiliation, as well as his experience in Congress, would help in Washington "so that Orange County does not get labeled as a single-party county."
The 4th District includes the cities of Anaheim, Orange, La Palma and Buena Park, plus pockets of unincorporated county territory.
Patterson said he had commitments of $100,000 for his campaign so far and had budgeted $250,000 for the June 3 primary race. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the primary vote, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff in November.
Patterson did not estimate how much a runoff would cost, but he said his late start in raising funds would be offset by his high name recognition among voters.
He said he thought the need for affordable housing and better transportation in the county would be key issues in the campaign.
Beam said Patterson's long-expected entry into the race "will provide the voters with quite a distinct contrast" in political philosophies.
"I don't think the voters in the 4th District are going to elect anyone with as liberal credentials as he has," Beam said. Although Clark is a Democrat--the only one among the five supervisors--Beam said he "is also a conservative, which is why he has been reelected the way he has been over the years."
Roth said Patterson's announcement "does not excite me" and was not a surprise.
"I don't think it changes the race any," Roth said. "It does not change my position any. I think I am the front-runner and I will continue to be so."
Roth said Patterson's loss to Dornan, who moved into the district to wage the campaign, "is a signal that the people were not satisfied."
"I think I'm more in tune with a majority of the people in the 4th District, and I'll tell you I'm more familiar with the local issues and the local problems," Roth said.
Patterson said he was up to date on local issues, was close to Clark in political philosophy and had contacts in Washington that would work to the advantage of the county.
He said he was making about three times as much money as a lobbyist as he will be if elected supervisor, which pays $55,000 a year, but "I would rather make 55,000 with a smile on my face than 200,000 with a frown."
Patterson said he had no intention of running for Congress again, although he hedged, saying: "Never say never."
"I really think that local government is closer to the people," he said. "I like the face-to-face contact. I like the fact that a constituent can walk right in the door of my office and we can look each other in the eye and talk about the problem."