SACRAMENTO — Democratic Assemblyman Richard Robinson confirmed Wednesday that he has moved his legal residence to an address in the 33rd State Senate District, where Sen. Paul Carpenter (D-Cypress) is vacating his seat to serve on the State Board of Equalization.
However, in his first interview since losing decisively last week in his bid to unseat Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), Robinson said his move from Garden Grove to Buena Park does not necessarily mean that he will be running in a special election to fill Carpenter's seat.
Robinson has long been rumored to be planning a race for the 33rd District Senate seat and until recently was widely regarded as the strongest potential Democratic candidate. But since his lopsided loss to Dornan, several state and local Democratic activists have said they have lost their enthusiasm for a Robinson candidacy.
Disappeared From View
On Wednesday, however, Robinson said the 42.4% of the vote he received in the Nov. 4 election did not discourage him. Only one other congressional challenger "in the entire state"--Don Henley, who received 42.8% of the vote in his attempt to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. George Brown of Riverside--"did better against an incumbent" congressman, Robinson said. "I'm in a position of strength, and I have no intention of rushing the judgment," Robinson said.
Robinson, who disappeared from public view election night and made no concession speech, said he has spent the days since the election "beginning to re-know my children, who I did not see during the last month of the campaign."
Orange County voter registration records show that Robinson changed his address from his Garden Grove apartment to a residence in Buena Park last Thursday--two days after the election. Robinson said Wednesday, however, that he leased the Buena Park residence before the election.
Robinson's old apartment on Trask Avenue in Garden Grove is more than five miles outside Carpenter's Senate district, which cuts a swath through northwestern Orange County and southern Los Angeles County.
Gov. George Deukmejian is expected to call a special election early next year to replace Carpenter, who won a seat on the State Board of Equalization in the Nov. 4 election.
In the Nov. 4 balloting, the state's Democrats lost Senate seats in San Francisco and Kern counties. Because the loss of another seat might mean his demise as Democratic leader, Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) now may have to put up state party funds to finance what is expected to be an expensive battle in the 33rd Senate District, political observers say.
For months, Roberti's top assistants had been saying that the 43-year-old Robinson was a leading candidate simply because he could raise some of the needed campaign funds on his own. But since the election, state party strategists close to Roberti no longer speak of Robinson as the best candidate.
Since the election, Roberti has said publicly that there is "more than one" prospective candidate for the seat, but he has declined to name anyone.
"If I were to announce anyone right now, it would sound like I was supporting the person," he said. "I don't want to do that right now."
Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk), a former congressman who easily won reelection to a second term in the Assembly last week, is considered the front-runner by some.
Allegations Involving Moriarty
Sources say Roberti privately has told political strategists he would rather back someone other than Robinson because he fears Robinson's candidacy would be damaged both by the recent election loss and by allegations--justified or not--involving W. Patrick Moriarty.
In the congressional race, Dornan attacked Robinson for allegedly accepting prostitutes and other favors from the former Anaheim fireworks magnate, now serving a federal prison sentence for political corruption.
Aides reportedly have begun gathering background information for Roberti on several city council members in Orange and Los Angeles counties who have expressed an interest or who have been mentioned as potential candidates. The list includes Otto J. Lacayo of Cypress, Diana S. Needham of Cerritos, Jackie Rynerson of Lakewood, Roy Paul of Downey and Cecil Green and Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, both of Norwalk.
"I'm sure David and I will be chatting," Robinson said Wednesday. "I don't see any real need to rush."
Mailer for 33rd District
Dornan sought to hurt Robinson's chances of winning the Senate seat even before last week's election. His last mail attack against Robinson was sent exclusively to voters in the 33rd Senate District.
The brochure, a takeoff on an American Express commercial, depicted Rep. Tony Coelho (D--Merced), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, saying he never leaves home without a card that, in the accompanying picture, is labeled "tax and spend." The brochure said Coelho wanted to give one of the cards to Robinson.
"Dick will appreciate the special targeting aspect of it," Dornan quipped when the mailers were sent out, four days before the election. "We assumed all along that it's the Senate race he'll show up in next."
Times staff writer Jeffrey A. Perlman contributed to this story.