SACRAMENTO — In a sign of growing troubles for Gov. George Deukmejian's state treasurer nominee, a group of 18 Democrats on Wednesday announced their intention to oppose confirmation of Rep. Daniel E. Lungren on the Assembly floor.
At the same time, Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) postponed until next week today's scheduled advisory vote on Lungren by a 19-member committee. And the Speaker predicted that a floor vote on Lungren's confirmation would not come until after the Senate completes its hearings Feb. 18.
The Assembly had been expected to vote on the appointment some time next week. The delay means there will be more time for opponents to press their case against the Long Beach Republican.
Others May Follow
"If 18 people have already said they are no (votes), it wouldn't surprise me that this doesn't stampede another 10 to 12 people immediately," Brown said. "If that happens and the Senate has a similar type of thing going down, it's going to be tough sledding."
A number of the Assembly Democrats who announced their opposition to Lungren are from the liberal wing of the party. But the list also includes the so-called "Gang of Five" dissident Democrats who have been critical of Brown's liberal politics and his running of the Assembly. In announcing their opposition to Lungren, all 18 Democrats cited his conservative congressional voting record on issues ranging from the environment to civil rights, and the likelihood that his philosophy would influence his handling of the treasurer's job.
"His extreme minority views put him out of touch with the people of this state," said Assemblyman Terry B. Freedman (D-Los Angeles), who was among those who signed a letter vowing opposition to the appointment. "I believe the people would not vote for him in an election and I see no reason to vote for him on confirmation."
The burgeoning opposition means that Lungren is certain to face a tough floor fight in the Assembly. However, it will take 41 votes, or more than twice the number who have declared their opposition thus far, to deny Lungren the post.
Assemblyman Phillip Isenberg (D-Sacramento), who is organizing the Assembly opposition, said he has spoken to most Democrats in the Assembly. While the majority declined to sign a letter of opposition, "no members said they supported Dan Lungren, not one."
"I think 41 members will vote against him," Isenberg added.
Deukmejian spokesman Tom Beermann said the governor "disputes that claim and we remain confident that when the dust finally clears concerning the Lungren confirmation hearings, that he will be confirmed as state treasurer."
Beermann added that the confirmation process "should not be a referendum on Dan Lungren's voting record in Congress. To suggest it is, misreads the (state) Constitution. Really what the members should be looking at are Dan Lungren's qualifications to hold the office of treasurer."
Isenberg, however, countered that political philosophy is extremely important because the treasurer has wide discretion over when to issue bonds for particular projects and holds key voting positions on boards that make decisions on a wide range of issues.
"Those in the governor's office who support Congressman Lungren have argued that his ideas are irrelevant, his philosophy is irrelevant, his voting record is irrelevant, his past performance is irrelevant and, in fact, his entire public life is irrelevant," Isenberg said.
"Instead they have suggested if he can walk, talk, chew gum, count to 20 without removing his shoes, we have to confirm him."
The Senate had been scheduled to begin its confirmation hearings next week but postponed them because of Lungren's desire to be in Washington next week to vote on funding for the Nicaraguan Contras.
Brown said his house would not vote until after the Senate hearings because "we really don't want to prejudice the Senate's opportunity to hold a hearing free of any previous decision."