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Lungren Vows Not to Retire From Politics, Hints at New Effort in 1990

June 25, 1988|RICHARD C. PADDOCK and MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writers

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."

Plans for Lungren

Deukmejian had initially 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.

"Dan Lungren is an individual who represents the type of person the governor is looking for," said Kevin Brett, the governor's press secretary. "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."

No Timetable

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 Democratic Treasurer 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.

Waxing Philosophical

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.

"I respect the opinion of the court," said Lungren, who was accompanied by his wife and three children. "I disagree with it, but I respect it. It is the law of the state of California now. You win some and you lose some and you accept it either way. I'm just sorry we had to go to court."

However, Lungren criticized the Supreme Court for ruling that one house of the Legislature could block the governor's action. The interpretation, he said, "is going far afield of a true understanding and analysis of the legislative process."

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) has called on Deukmejian to seek the advice of Democratic legislators in naming his next candidate for treasurer. But Lungren contended that such consultation could "emasculate the legitimate power" of the governor.

Future Course Unclear

Lungren said he is not sure what he will do when his term in Congress expires, but he said he is considering returning to the practice of law. He has purchased a house near Sacramento and moved his family there from Washington.

After meeting with Deukmejian in the morning, the congressman said he has no plans to go to work for the governor. Lungren's two brothers already work for Deukmejian.

"No job was offered. No job was requested," he said. "I don't expect to have a job with this Administration. I expect to go into the private world."

On his arrival in Sacramento on Thursday night, members of his family greeted him with a banner reading, "Lungren for A. G. in 1990," a clear suggestion he has turned his attention to the office of attorney general.

"I'll be looking at all possibilities," Lungren told reporters. "Right now, I'm going to have to decide what I'm going to do starting in January."

Depends on Van de Kamp

The office of attorney general would become vacant in 1990 if its current occupant, John K. Van de Kamp, decides to run for governor.

At the same time, Lungren all but ruled out the possibility that he would run for treasurer: "The chances of me running for treasurer are very, very slim because I would expect the governor is going to appoint somebody and I would expect that person would run for the position when his or her term would be up.'

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