SACRAMENTO — California Republican Chairman Clair Burgener, in a rare public airing of an intraparty family fight, strongly criticized bedrock conservative GOP state Sen. H. L. Richardson on Tuesday for refusing to endorse Rep. Ed Zschau, the party's nominee in the U.S. Senate race.
"I think it's an incredible betrayal of President Reagan," Burgener told a press conference, noting that Reagan wants Zschau in the Senate to preserve Republican control of the upper house.
Richardson of Glendora, a major fund-raiser for conservative candidates and causes, earlier had said that he could not endorse Zschau of Los Altos over Democratic incumbent Sen. Alan Cranston because "choosing the lesser of two evils is still a selection of evil."
For his part, Richardson shot back that Burgener was acting "under pressure from liberal elements of the Republican Party" and said he would not change his mind on Zschau.
Burgener, during a wide-ranging news conference, also disclosed that he and other GOP leaders are pressuring the White House to appoint Democratic state Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh of Chula Vista, who was born in Iraq, to a Middle East ambassadorial post.
The appointment would vacate a Democratic seat in the Senate, and some Republicans are confident that they could win a special election in Deddeh's San Diego County district. Deddeh is a candidate for reelection in November and is considered the favorite in the race.
It was Burgener who cautioned Republican candidates during the June primary to avoid attacking each other and honor the GOP's "11th Commandment": Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.
But he told reporters at state party headquarters here that the stakes are so high in Zschau's race against Cranston that Richardson should be publicly reprimanded for attacking the GOP congressman in a weekly commentary he distributes to the news media. In the column, he attacked both Cranston and Zschau as "sadly lacking in personal integrity."
Burgener, whose press conference seemed to acknowledge Richardson as a political power in conservative GOP circles, nevertheless called him "a leader of nothing, a leader of no one."
In his commentary released Friday, Richardson said he could not endorse the Republican congressman because of his stands on abortion, gun control and other issues.
Zschau supports the right of women to make their own choice on abortion but opposes federal funding of abortions. On the issue of gun control, Zschau recently voted to relax some restrictions on interstate traffic in guns, although he did not go far enough to satisfy the National Rifle Assn., which is closely allied with Richardson.
Burgener said that he does not believe in forcing Republicans to adhere to the party line on all issues and that he believes the overriding issue is electing another Republican to ensure a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
Burgener indicated some action may be taken against Richardson when the party holds a convention in Los Angeles next week.
"I'd be very happy to condemn him," the party chief said, but added that it may not be "that important" a matter for the party to take up.
As for Deddeh, Burgener said he had contacted unnamed White House officials to support the appointment of the Democratic lawmaker to a Middle East ambassadorial post.
Deddeh, who has already been to the White House for interviews, declined during a telephone interview to discuss the situation at length.
Deddeh is a Roman Catholic who was born in Iraq, moved to the United States in 1947 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1953. Deddeh said "no commitments were made" during the interviews in Washington nor was a specific country named.
Burgener, in joining Republican financial contributor Gordon Luce and GOP state Senate leaders in pushing for Deddeh's ambassadorial appointment, said, "I think he'd be a fine representative of the President."
The GOP leader, however, said that Republicans would still face a "long shot" in taking Deddeh's seat from Democrats, because the majority party had drawn the political boundary lines in his district to their advantage during the last reapportionment.
Burgener, the personal choice of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian to head the state party, said he would like to see the governor run for President in 1988 as a "favorite son" candidate. But he said Deukmejian had shown "a monumental lack of interest" in presidential politics.