There was no drama for U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) and his top Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, but California GOP voters Tuesday ousted first-term Rep. Ernest Konnyu (R-Saratoga) while also anointing two new Republicans who appear sure to be elected to Congress in the fall.
Konnyu was defeated in his party primary by Tom Campbell, a 35-year-old Stanford University law professor and economist.
A clearly bitter Konnyu, speaking with his two crying daughters at his side, said he would "absolutely not" support Campbell in November: "This guy has all the power in the world behind him. He doesn't need Ernie Konnyu."
All other California members of Congress who stood for reelection were leading in bids to retain their party's nominations.
The probable new members of the House were leading in races to win GOP nominations in the 42nd and 40th districts in Southern California, both resolutely Republican districts where Democrats have conceded little chance of winning in November.
In the 42nd, former White House speech writer Dana Rohrabacher appeared headed for an upset of the woman many Republicans considered the front-runner, Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder, for the nomination to replace Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, who is leaving Congress in January to pursue his legal battle to be seated as California state treasurer.
Leaders in House Races
Rohrabacher was well ahead of Wieder and former Cal State Long Beach President Stephen Horn.
In the 40th, C. Christopher Cox, a virtual unknown in Orange County until he left the White House staff to run, held a commanding lead after a bitterly contested campaign to inherit the safe GOP seat of Rep. Robert E. Badham, who is retiring from Congress.
Cox, 35, of Newport Beach, was out-polling the two other major candidates in the field of nine--Irvine Councilman C. David Baker and Newport Beach businessman Nathan Rosenberg.
In the 30th District, on the east side of Los Angeles County, Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park) won easily over former Monterey Park mayor Lily Chen. But Martinez could face a tough November challenge from the winner between Republicans Ralph Ramirez and Mike Radlovic, who were in a close race in late returns.
Konnyu has been a vocal conservative since his election to the House in 1986, but he has also proved to be controversial both in Washington and at home--a fact that Campbell exploited in the campaign.
Campbell was running strong even though he has lived in the area less than five years, supported Democrat George McGovern when he first voted in 1972, and ran this year on a platform that includes raising some taxes. But he also worked in the Reagan White House and apparently was conservative enough for the 12th district voters.
In the November election, Campbell will face San Mateo County Supervisor Anna Eshoo, who won the Democratic nomination in a field of five candidates.
For Wilson and McCarthy, the primary Tuesday in which they won party nominations was a perfunctory step required before they can square off in November. The race begins with Wilson holding a solid lead of 12 to 20 points in the polls and with $2.4 million in the bank, compared to $706,000 for McCarthy.
At his victory party Tuesday night in Los Angeles, McCarthy pledged to put money problems behind him by raising $9 million for the race, and also said he expects to benefit from running on the same ballot as Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the probable Democratic candidate for president.
"The Dukakis candidacy is exciting Democrats all over the state. . . . I think it is a plus, a strong plus," said McCarthy, who faced only token opposition in the Democratic primary.
At Republican headquarters in Orange County, Wilson predicted victory in his attempt for a second term. "The people appear to know not only the differences I have made for California in the last 5 1/2 years, but also the very fundamental differences between Leo McCarthy and me."
The 42nd District, where Rohrabacher was leading, covers Torrance and the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County, then passes through Long Beach. It also reaches south into Orange County to encompass Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Cypress and Westminster.
Wieder was the best-known candidate in Orange County from her years on the Board of Supervisors there. Horn possibly was the best-known in the Los Angeles County slice of the district from his tenure as Cal State Long Beach president.
But both Rohrabacher and a rival, Andrew J. Littlefair, spent the campaign trying to inform voters of their experience in Washington with the Reagan Administration. Rohrabacher was a speech writer in the White House and Littlefair an advance assistant who later worked for corporate takeover expert T. Boone Pickens.
A Role for North