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Lungren's Pullout Triggers Lively Competition for 42nd District Seat

March 10, 1988|CLAUDIA LUTHER | Times Political Writer

The race in the 42nd District is shaping up as one of the liveliest congressional contests in the state now that Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) has counted himself out of the running.

Leading Republican candidates for the predominantly GOP district include Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriett M. Wieder, 67; Dana Rohrabacher, 40, who grew up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and is a speech writer for President Reagan, and outgoing Cal State Long Beach President Stephen Horn, 56.

Also expected to file as candidates by Friday's deadline are three other Republicans: Andrew Littlefair, 27, a former advance man for Reagan and former assistant to Texas oilman and corporate takeover expert T. Boone Pickens; former Palos Verdes Estates Councilman Robert Welbourn, 50, a lawyer, and Donald G. Davis, 43, of Palos Verdes Estates, also a lawyer.

One Democrat, Guy Kimbrough, 42, of Huntington Beach, a college teacher, has said he will enter the race.

Lungren said last week that he will not run for reelection but will concentrate instead on his efforts to take office as state treasurer.

Gov. George Deukmejian appointed Lungren to the treasurer's post to fill the late Jesse Unruh's unexpired term. But the appointment was rejected by the state Senate and approved by the Assembly, setting the stage for a court battle over whether confirmation requires the approval of both houses of the Legislature.

Lungren's withdrawal after months of uncertainty moves the candidates' campaigns out of limbo and into full gear. There is little time to waste, with only three months until the June 7 primary. The solidly GOP district, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 52%-37% margin, traditionally sends a Republican to Congress, so the primary is where all attention is focused.

Wieder, who has scheduled a $500-per-person fund-raiser for today, said ticket sales picked up after Lungren's announcement. She is hoping to raise about $100,000 at the event.

"I was treading water, trying not to get upset about it, and what would be, would be," said Wieder, who, like the other Republicans, had said she would support Lungren if he decided to seek reelection. Nevertheless, Wieder was the candidate most ready to go once Lungren said he was out.

"Harriett has been working 23 hours a day for the last couple of months," said political consultant Eileen Padberg, one of Wieder's advisers. "I think she has a huge leg up on contacts and things she's done and the base she's laid."

Still, no one is counting out Rohrabacher or Horn in the diverse district, which straddles Orange and Los Angeles counties and includes Torrance, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Long Beach, Seal Beach, Rossmoor, Cypress, Huntington Beach and part of Westminster.

Rohrabacher's political consultant, Alan Hoffenblum, said Rohrabacher's campaign theme will be that he is a "proven Reagan Republican." Rohrabacher was South Bay youth chairman for Reagan's 1966 gubernatorial campaign and was a volunteer for Reagan's 1976 and 1980 presidential efforts.

A native of the Peninsula, he has been on the White House staff since 1981. He is leaving the White House to return to the district at the end of this week.

According to Hoffenblum, Rohrabacher has endorsements from prominent conservatives including economist Milton Friedman, former U. N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and columnist William F. Buckley Jr.

Hoffenblum hinted that Rohrabacher may try to make Wieder's age a factor in the campaign by pointing out that his candidate "has the youth and vigor required to be an outstanding candidate."

"I don't think anyone who knows me can challenge my vigor," Wieder responded. Then, showing she knows how to play the political game as well, she said of Rohrabacher: "The problem with Dana--he seems like a nice kid--is that he's been away for so long . . . he's almost a carpetbagger."

Horn, the president of Cal State Long Beach, is on a leave of absence pending his departure from his post July 1.

Horn was severely criticized in a performance review in the wake of a series of problems on the Long Beach campus, beginning with an unexpected budget deficit of more than $1 million in 1986 that required a $900,000 bailout loan from the chancellor's office.

Asked how he would deal with this during the campaign, Horn replied: "I can hardly wait until they ask me that question." But he refused to give a clue as to his answer. "I want to save that one for a broad audience," he said.

Before becoming president of Cal State Long Beach in 1970, Horn was an administrative assistant to Secretary of Labor James P. Mitchell under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later was a legislative assistant to Republican U. S. Sen. Thomas Kuchel of Anaheim.

Horn has hired a veteran GOP political consulting firm, the Dolphin Group, headed by Bill Roberts, to run his campaign.

Other Candidates

The other candidates:

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