SACRAMENTO — Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, gracefully accepting defeat in his bid to become state treasurer, vowed Friday not to retire from politics as Gov. George Deukmejian started searching for a new nominee for the treasurer's job.
Lungren, a Republican who will leave Congress when his term ends in January, said he plans to go to work in "the private world" but hinted that he will begin preparing to run for some other statewide office, such as attorney general, in 1990.
"It's not my intent to retire from public office," he told reporters at a Capitol press conference. "You may see me around here again in the future."
Deukmejian initially had chosen the 41-year-old Lungren, an articulate and pragmatic conservative, as a politician who could assume the mantle of leadership in the California GOP and go on from treasurer to even higher office.
Now, to replace the Long Beach congressman, aides to Deukmejian said the governor is looking for a politically experienced candidate who would run for election to the treasurer's office in 1990, thereby enhancing the Republican Party's long-term political prospects.
Among those who have expressed interest in the appointment are Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim) and Robert Naylor, state Republican Party chairman.
Also mentioned as possible nominees are San Diego banker Tom Stickel, Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum and attorney Karl Samuelian, a close friend of Deukmejian who serves as his chief campaign fund-raiser.
In an interview later Friday, Lungren said he has no regrets about leaving Congress despite his failed bid to become state treasurer.
"I resolved that in my own mind a long time ago," Lungren said. "You can't look back. If you look back, you'll go nuts."
Lungren's appointment to the treasurer's post and his decision in early March not to seek reelection sparked a bitter GOP primary fight in the solidly Republican 42nd Congressional District, which stretches from Torrance to Huntington Beach.
Although Lungren endorsed Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder to succeed him, the June 7 Republican primary was won by former White House speech-writer Dana Rohrabacher of Palos Verdes Estates.
Rohrabacher, a longtime associate of President Reagan, soundly defeated Wieder and six other Republicans after a hard-fought and expensive campaign that featured a last-minute campaign swing by retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, who has been indicted in the Iran-Contra scandal.
Lungren pledged his full support to Rohrabacher in the fall campaign. "I'm going to help him as much as I can," he said. Rohrabacher will face Democrat Guy C. Kimbrough, a political science instructor from Huntington Beach, in the November election.
As for the future, Lungren did not rule out a run for statewide office in 1990.
"It is not my intent to retire from public office in Roseville (a Sacramento suburb)," he said.
Lungren added that he has benefited from the publicity surrounding the treasurer's appointment and his unsuccessful legal fight over it.
Kevin Brett, the governor's press secretary, said Lungren's high political profile makes him an attractive candidate down the road.
"Dan Lungren is an individual who represents the type of person the governor is looking for," Brett said. "Someone who is a fiscal conservative, someone who can administer the duties of the office and someone who would stand for election in 1990 for a full term as treasurer."
Michael Frost, the governor's chief of staff, said Deukmejian has no timetable for filling the appointment and could not say whether the decision would be made before the Legislature adjourns in August for the year.
One leading contender, Senate Republican Leader Ken Maddy of Fresno, took himself out of contention for the job, saying he wanted to focus his attention on helping GOP candidates win in the November elections.
The office of treasurer was left vacant last August with the death of Democrat Jesse M. Unruh, who had built the obscure post into a politically powerful office and fund-raising base. For the last 10 months, the office has been run by Acting Treasurer Elizabeth Whitney, a longtime assistant to Unruh.
Lungren's nomination as treasurer was confirmed by the Assembly in February but narrowly rejected by the Senate. The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that under the state Constitution, rejection by one house of the Legislature was sufficient to deny Lungren the job.
The five-term congressman, who at times lashed out bitterly at his opponents during the confirmation proceedings, was philosophical Friday about his defeat. He appeared relaxed and engaged in friendly banter with reporters about the court decision and his political future.