SACRAMENTO — In a move aimed at averting an expensive intra-party fight, Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill) on Wednesday withdrew from the developing race to succeed Long Beach Rep. Dan Lungren, improving prospects for Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) to win the seat.
Lungren, recently nominated by Gov. George Deukmejian to be state treasurer, faces what is expected to be a tough confirmation battle when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 4. Lungren has said he will not resign his congressional seat until he is confirmed as treasurer.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who helped engineer Brown's exit, immediately named him to replace Felando as Assembly GOP Caucus chairman. Felando resigned the GOP's No. 2 Assembly leadership post because of a caucus rule that lawmakers must give up their leadership posts if they decide to seek other offices.
Brown said he will refrain from endorsing his colleague Felando or Orange County Supervisor Harriett Wieder, another potential Republican candidate. Said Brown: "No, I'm not going to be getting involved in the race. Both Felando and Wieder are allies."
Felando, 53, a dentist, was first elected to the Assembly in 1978, beating veteran Assemblyman Vincent Thomas (D-San Pedro), who then was the dean of the Legislature. Known for his combative style and advocacy of commercial fishing interests, Felando basically is regarded as a conservative.
Both Felando and Brown were gearing up for a bruising campaign in the heavily Republican 42nd District, which stretches from Torrance south to Huntington Beach.
"It was certainly in the interest of everyone in the caucus that two of our valuable members didn't go head to head in a primary race," Nolan declared. "While Dennis could have had a great career in Congress, his decision to decline a congressional race avoids what could have been a costly and divisive primary battle." Nolan and Brown are close personal friends who attended USC together and campaigned for Republican candidates and conservative causes since the 1960s. Both were elected to the Assembly in 1978.
Their friendship played a key role in Brown's decision. After several " heart-to-heart" conversations with Nolan, Brown said, he decided for "personal and professional" reasons to remain in the Legislature.