SACRAMENTO — Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, insisting that he is "prepared to compare my record of service to (that of) anybody," formally kicked off his campaign for a second term Wednesday by taking credit for a major nursing home reform and progress in toxic waste cleanup.
Meanwhile, Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande, one of three Republicans to announce their candidacy for lieutenant governor, has decided to drop out of the primary race and run either for secretary of state or state controller, sources close to Nestande said.
Using a technique made popular by President Reagan, McCarthy, accompanied by his wife and three of his four children, emphasized family values during an announcement tour and cited stories of individual Californians who he said "got mad" and did something about pressing problems.
"We clobbered the multibillion-dollar nursing home industry, a group often far more devoted to their profit margin than to the very lives of the elderly in their care," McCarthy said of a 1985 reform measure he helped push to Gov. George Deukmejian's desk. The law led to a crackdown on operators of shoddy nursing homes.
On an issue that is expected to dominate the campaigns of his Republican opponents, McCarthy defended his support of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, saying voters will focus on his record rather than his stand on the controversial justice.
"I've made my decision (on Bird) and I'm going to stick with that decision," McCarthy declared.
McCarthy, 55, is not expected to face major Democratic opposition in the June 3 primary, allowing him to devote his full energies to the November general election and to collecting the $2 million in campaign contributions he said he needs to win.
He will face the winner of the GOP primary, now expected to be a contest between former Lt. Gov. Mike Curb, who is attemptinG a politicaL comeback, and state Sen. H. L. Richardson of Glendora.
Sources close to the Nestande campaign said he decided to drop out because of difficulty in raising money.
McCarthy is only the second lieutenant governor elected in this century from a party different from that of the governor. Curb, his predecessor, was the first. McCarthy has maintained a distant but cordial relationship with Deukmejian in contrast with Curb, who openly defied Democrat Edmund G. Brown Jr. during one tumultuous term in the No. 2 seat.
McCarthy also has used his chairmanship of the Economic Development Commission--a relatively obscure post created by Reagan when he was California governor--as a forum to air his views on a wide variety of issues.
A former Assembly Speaker who fell from power after a long and bitter feud among Democrats, McCarthy has since tried to forge an image as a conciliator between Deukmejian and the Democratic-controlled Legislature on a variety of issues but with mixed results.
On other issues, however, he has been openly critical of Deukmejian, particularly of his refusal to speak out strongly against provisions of the President's income tax overhaul plan that would have disallowed deductions for state and local taxes.
However, it is McCarthy's support of Chief Justice Bird and his position on the death penalty that are expected to take center stage in the campaigns of Curb and Richardson, both of whom strongly support the ouster of Bird and several other justices.
McCarthy last year announced he dropped his longstanding opposition to the death penalty.
"If the election regarding the confirmation of the Supreme Court justices were limited to the death penalty, I would vote against Rose Bird," McCarthy said Wednesday.
"I have looked at the hundreds of decisions that each of these justices have voted upon. Have they exemplified honesty and reasonable impartiality? I've come to the conclusion that each has, and that's why I'm voting 'yes' on confirmation."