Saying she had to choose between her marriage and her candidacy, Secretary of State March Fong Eu ended her quest Thursday for the Democratic nomination to the U. S. Senate in 1988.
Eu's withdrawal means smoother sailing for Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, who is also seeking the chance to face Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, a one-term incumbent. So far, the only other Democrat who has talked seriously about seeking the nomination is Los Angeles TV commentator Bill Press.
Although she cited several factors in her decision, Eu made it clear that financial disclosure requirements in federal campaigns forced her to abandon the candidacy she has been exploring for a year.
Little is known, even among Eu's closest aides, about her husband, Henry, a businessman with interests in Hong Kong and Singapore. In order to run for the Senate, she would have had to disclose much more about her husband's business than was comfortable for the couple.
Asked exactly what Henry Eu does, Tony Miller, chief deputy secretary of state said Thursday: "I don't know, and that's part of the problem. Mr. Eu comes from a wealthy family. His father and grandfather made lots of money, and it is my understanding that the sons manage the family interests but beyond that, we don't know."
In a press release announcing her withdrawal, Eu said: "My marital relationship is such that I am unable to disclose financial information regarding my spouse, who is not a citizen of this country. I am, to a significant degree, forced to choose between my marriage and my candidacy for the Senate. Put to such a choice, there is no contest. I will not run."
Eu, who had raised about $200,000 in contributions, also said she was far behind in fund-raising for the Senate campaign because she put things on hold last July to concentrate on her efforts to qualify a ballot initiative that would provide extra money to local law enforcement agencies.
That effort, called Dimes for Crimes, needs 595,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot next June or November (the date will depend on how soon it is certified). Eu said she has collected about 500,000 signatures and needs 900,000 in all to make sure that she has enough once disqualified signatures are weeded out.
The initiative, which would increase taxes on some alcoholic beverages to raise money for law enforcement agencies, has become a passion for the secretary of state ever since she was savagely beaten by a drifter last year in her Los Angeles home. She said Thursday that the initiative drive took priority over her Senate race and contributed to her withdrawal.
First elected secretary of state in 1974, Eu is California's biggest vote getter in a contested statewide race, getting 69% of the vote last year.
Her exit from the U. S. Senate race was greeted with pleasure by McCarthy, who said in an interview Thursday: "March Fong Eu was high in the polls and would have been a tough opponent. This had to be a rough decision, to bow out in the face of federal requirements about disclosing everything about the family business."
Although many political professionals thought McCarthy could beat Eu in next June's primary, they did not underestimate Eu, who has a knack for seizing popular issues. She rose to prominence by fighting the use of pay toilets in public facilities.
In some early polls, she actually matched up better against Wilson than McCarthy did. Asked about that Thursday, McCarthy said, "She retained almost all the Democrats I did and was doing better than I among Republican voters."
Press said Thursday: "This is like a neon sign saying to me, 'Enter here.' It does make the race a lot more attractive, and it increases the likelihood I will run. It leaves the field crying for a new face with new energy and new ideas."