SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian moved Wednesday to counter criticism of the civil rights record of his treasurer nominee, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, by releasing endorsements from Asians and Latinos and a letter in which he described the Long Beach Republican as "sensitive to the needs and concerns of California's diverse population."
Many of the endorsements are from members of minority and refugee groups pleased with Lungren's work on the federal immigration reform law and with his staunch anti-Communist views. Only a few are from the Japanese-American community, where Lungren's vote opposing reparations for World War II internees has sparked heavy criticism.
Deukmejian's decision to go public with the endorsements provides a glimpse of the strategy his Administration intends to follow when the first round of confirmation hearings convene Monday in the Assembly.
Lining Up Witnesses
Sources in the Legislature said the Administration is trying to line up Asians and other minorities to testify on Lungren's behalf in hopes of blunting criticism that Lungren is not only insensitive to Japanese but lacks understanding of the state's ethnic diversity.
Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) characterized Lungren as too reflective of a white, upper-middle-class society. And Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) chided Lungren for siding with President Reagan in opposing strong economic sanctions on South Africa.
In his letter to Brown, Deukmejian cited congressional votes cast by Lungren on behalf of Latinos, blacks and Asian refugees as evidence that he has been a "fair and effective legislator."
He also noted that Lungren played a key role in rounding up support for the immigration reform bill, stressing that the final product included an amnesty provision for aliens living in the United States and "protections against unwarranted searches for illegal aliens." And the governor lauded Lungren's "eloquent speech" on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of establishing a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
'Misses the Point'
"Rep. Lungren is a public servant of unquestioned integrity, intelligence and fairness, an individual thoroughly qualified to assume the post of state treasurer," Deukmejian wrote.
Donald K. Tamaki, a San Francisco attorney and spokesman for a coalition of Asian groups opposed to Lungren's nomination, countered that the Administration's attempt to publicize "selected names here and there that are Asian or Hispanic sounding misses the point. The real issue is his consistent positions against many segments of California."
Tamaki, who plans to testify against Lungren during the confirmation hearings, noted that Lungren had voted in Congress to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corp., which subsidizes legal services for the poor, and the Small Business Administration, which Tamaki said "gave a lot of minorities their start."
"Lungren has taken positions that cut across the interests of so many parts of the community that once his record becomes known, other groups will question him as well," Tamaki added.
Only four Japanese names appear on the list of more than 100 endorsements released by the governor's office. The most prominent of those is Rep. Patricia Saiki of Hawaii, a Republican colleague of Lungren who wrote in a letter to Deukmejian that it is "patently false" to accuse Lungren of being insensitive to Japanese-Americans or other minorities.
Saiki said the debate in the House over the reparations bill "evolved into a highly contentious issue." While Saiki noted that she disagreed with Lungren's vote against the measure, she said, "I completely respect his position. His obviously sincere and eloquent arguments were both moving and thoughtful."
Tamaki, however, said that throughout the debate, Lungren was "consistently the most unsympathetic member of Congress, despite what he might say."