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A Job as Big as the Person Who Fills It : McCarthy has done well as state's second-in-command, deserves another term

October 21, 1990

Under the California Constitution, the lieutenant governor has but one duty as long as the governor is in the state and generally able to function. He casts tie-breaking votes in the state Senate. The last tie came in 1974.

That being the case, the best lieutenant governors have spent a lot of their time out looking for work, none more diligently and successfully than Leo McCarthy during his two terms. The work he finds consists usually of resolving issues that were locked in partisan limbo between the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature. We recommend a vote for McCarthy that will keep him at his many jobs.

The dynamics of Sacramento will change after the November election, no matter who becomes governor. What will not change is the need for a standby second-in-command who is temperamentally suited for building coalitions on a wide range of interests, from the environment to economic growth, family concerns, negotiations on water supply and general good works.

Endorsing McCarthy does not require speaking ill of his challenger. In six years as senator for virtually the entire coastline of Orange County, Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) has served with distinction. She has represented her constituents so well that The Times two years ago described her as one of the three best senators in Southern California.

But the statewide concerns that the lieutenant governor must represent go beyond those of Bergeson's district. For this election, McCarthy's experience in making government work is indispensable.

McCarthy is one of the few active politicians in California, or in the country as a whole, who has functioned through his career as a public servant, in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

As a member of the California Assembly in the 1970s, for example, McCarthy was an author of the act that created the California Coastal Commission and then, as lieutenant governor, fought off federal attempts in the 1980s to weaken its power to guard the coast.

Oil spills are not specifically a concern of the lieutenant governor, but McCarthy moved after the disastrous Alaska spill to ensure that cleanup crews would be ready for a major tanker accident off the California coast. The coalition he put together prevailed this year with a new cleanup law.

McCarthy's quiet, persistent approach to shaping policy is just what Sacramento needs this or any year.

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