State Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) on Monday opted out of the 40th Congressional District race, opening the way for a tough Republican battle to succeed Rep. Robert E. Badham.
In announcing her decision, Bergeson said, "The advantages in Congress really were not that compelling in comparison to what I could do in the state Legislature."
She said she was gratified by the "outpouring of support" that came her way after Badham, also a Newport Beach Republican, announced on Jan. 3 that he would not seek a seventh term, but she had decided to run for reelection in her Senate district this fall.
Bergeson, who has four grown children with her husband, Garth, said that "proximity to my family was a very important factor in my decision as well."
According to several people close to her, Bergeson, 60, said another factor was the seniority system in Congress. It would have been several years before she could have risen within that system to a position of authority. In Sacramento, she is chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
Bergeson, who was among those Gov. George Deukmejian considered as nominees for the position of state treasurer after Jesse M. Unruh died last year, said Monday she is still interested in statewide office.
Had Bergeson decided to run for Badham's seat--in what is considered to be one of the safest Republican districts in the nation--nearly all conceded it was hers. Three elected officials who also were interested had indicated that they would sit out the race if Bergeson ran, although Badham's opponent in the 1986 primary, Newport Beach business consultant Nathan Rosenberg, and two minor Republican candidates had said they would run against her.
A few hours after Bergeson made her announcement at a news conference, one of those elected officials, Irvine Councilman C. David Baker, 34, declared his candidacy for Badham's seat. The other two, Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), 53, and Orange County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, 50, said they had not yet decided whether to run.
If Ferguson and Stanton decide to run in the 40th District rather than seek reelection, there would be contests to replace them, raising GOP fears that money would be drained from legislative races around the state where Republicans hope to gain seats from Democrats.
According to Orange County Republican Party Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes, there is an effort afoot to win agreement among party leaders on the major candidates in all the county races this year to avoid a "spend-a-thon" in the 40th Congressional District or any other GOP campaigns.
"I sensed them very much concerned that Republican dollars are not wasted," he said of those involved. "At this point, I don't think there is necessarily a free-for-all looming."
Many people, however, doubt that such an agreement can be negotiated. And even if Republican leaders can agree on certain candidates, the elements for a chaotic year of campaigning are already in place.
In another part of the county, Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder has said she will run against Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) in the 42nd Congressional District, now held by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach). Lungren is Deukmejian's Lungren confirmation hearing, Part I, Page 3.
choice to succeed Unruh and is now undergoing confirmation hearings in the Legislature.
Should Wieder win in the 42nd District, about 43% of which is in northwest Orange County, that would open up a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
In the 40th District, Rosenberg, who captured 34% of the vote against Badham in the 1986 primary, said he already has contributions or pledges for $375,000 and 300 volunteers to help him walk precincts and organize his campaign this year. He is tapping support from Orange County and around the nation from participants in the Forum, which was started by his brother, est founder Werner Erhard.
At a press conference Monday at his newly opened campaign headquarters on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, about 20 volunteers already were answering phones and licking envelopes. The candidate said that many of those involved in the campaign had never before been involved in partisan politics.
Rosenberg, 35, also has some GOP establishment support. Two Republican stalwarts, William Lyon and Kathryn Thompson, are his campaign chairman and finance chairman, respectively. Another GOP leader, John Cronin, is also a supporter. All three are members of the Lincoln Club, a prominent Republican support group.
But in some respects Rosenberg is viewed as a brash outsider. He already has stepped on some toes in this campaign--including Bergeson's, who reportedly was offended by a phone call from Rosenberg a week ago in which he told her he was in the race to win, regardless of her decision on whether to run. Bergeson said she took that to mean something like "I'm going to beat you."