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One of Five Key Democrats Nears Yes Vote on Lungren

February 23, 1988|ALAN C. MILLER | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Amid intense lobbying from Gov. George Deukmejian's Administration, one of five moderate to conservative Democrats who are considered the swing votes in the confirmation of treasurer-nominee Rep. Daniel E. Lungren said Monday that he is strongly inclined to vote for Lungren.

Two other Democrats among the five said they remain undecided about the Long Beach Republican's nomination, but their constituent mail and telephone calls are running in Lungren's favor.

Deukmejian, meanwhile, who may need the votes of all five Democrats to get Lungren through the Democrat-controlled Senate, continued to push for his nominee even as he attended the National Governors' Assn. conference in Washington.

With a floor vote only three days away, undecided senators said they received a letter from Deukmejian seeking their support and the governor's office released letters from four prominent Democratic members of Congress praising Lungren, as well as a list of endorsements by more than 570 county supervisors, mayors and other local government officials.

The legislative showdown will conclude Thursday when both the Senate and Assembly have scheduled floor votes. Lungren will need a majority of votes in each house for confirmation--21 in the Senate and 41 in the Assembly. But the spotlight is focused on the upper house, where Democrats are given a greater chance of defeating Lungren.

As many as 19 of the Senate's 24 Democrats already have suggested privately that they will oppose his confirmation. That means the Senate's 15 Republicans will need support from one independent and the five remaining Democrats for the necessary 21-vote majority.

One Democratic senator previously considered undecided, Joseph B. Montoya of Whittier, said in an interview Monday that he expects to vote for Lungren.

"I have seen nothing about Dan Lungren that convinces me that he is a racist," Montoya said, alluding to opponents' claims that Lungren has been insensitive to minorities. "Nor have I seen anything that convinces me he is not a man of integrity."

Furthermore, Montoya said that Democratic concerns that Lungren would use the powerful treasurer's post to establish himself as a potentially formidable gubernatorial successor to Deukmejian are misguided.

'A Ludicrous Argument'

"It's a ludicrous argument that a Dan Lungren as an extreme conservative would be more difficult to beat (in a statewide race) than a (Sen.) Ken Maddy," Montoya said. Maddy, a Fresno Republican, was another finalist for the nomination and, some believe, might be Deukmejian's second choice if Lungren is defeated.

Two other Democratic senators, Ruben S. Ayala of Chino and Robert Presley of Riverside, said they remain undecided. But each disclosed that his heavy constituent correspondence was running slightly in favor of Lungren. And Ayala also indicated that the Democratic leadership was making too much of Lungren's political philosophy.

"He's being considered for treasurer, not king," Ayala said.

Senate Majority Leader Barry Keene (D-Benicia), who says he has marshaled 19 votes against Lungren's confirmation, described Sens. Waddie P. Deddeh of Chula Vista and Rose Ann Vuich of Dinuba as the other undecided Democrats. Deddeh was returning from a trip to New Zealand and Vuich could not be reached Monday.

Letter From Governor

Ayala, Presley, Deddeh and Daniel E. Boatwright of Concord were among a small group of Democratic senators who received a letter from Deukmejian extolling Lungren's virtues and his statewide support and asking for their vote.

Noting that he would be attending the governors' conference until Wednesday, Deukmejian said, "If you have any questions or concerns regarding this nomination, please call my office and they will put me in touch with you right away."

Boatwright and Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk), as well as the other five who are considered undecided, reportedly have been targeted for special lobbying by Deukmejian.

Other Votes

But Barry Brokaw, Boatwright's chief of staff, said Monday, "He won't be supporting Mr. Lungren." Green maintained that he remained uncommitted, but Keene said he counted the freshman lawmaker "solidly with the leadership."

Late Monday, Deukmejian's office also distributed to news media copies of correspondence from Democratic Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin and Reps. Peter W. Rodino Jr. of New Jersey, Romano L. Mazzoli of Kentucky and Barney Frank of Massachusetts praising Lungren for his diligence, honesty, fairness and talent. However, only Mazzoli explicitly endorsed Lungren for the treasurer's post.

Rodino, who chairs the Judiciary Committee on which Lungren serves, said, "I consider him to be a very competent and highly respected member of Congress."

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