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Bader Considered for Equalization Board


SACRAMENTO — Charles Bader, who lost a bitterly contested state Senate election last month to incumbent Ruben S. Ayala, is among a handful of prospective nominees under consideration by Gov.-elect Pete Wilson for a seat on the State Board of Equalization, according to several Republican sources.

The seat is expected to become vacant after current board member Paul Carpenter is sentenced next week for his conviction on felony charges in a federal anti-corruption case.

Bader, a Pomona Republican who had served in the Assembly since 1982, said he is interested in the seat but is uncertain whether he would accept the nomination because of doubts that a Republican could win in the heavily Democratic board district.

"I have mixed emotions on it," Bader said. "It's an important job, but on the other hand, party registration would make it difficult for a Republican to get elected."

The district that Carpenter has represented since 1987 encompasses about two-thirds of Los Angeles County, including the San Gabriel Valley.

A former Pomona mayor, Bader gave up his Assembly seat to challenge Ayala (D-Chino) in a race that attracted statewide attention. Ayala narrowly won.

Bader said he has not spoken to Wilson directly about the board job. But he acknowledged that Ernest Dronenburg, a Republican member of the board, sounded him out recently about his interest in the appointment, which would require confirmation by the Legislature.

The Board of Equalization, a five-member panel composed of four members elected from districts and the state controller, decides tax cases ranging from individual income tax appeals to multimillion-dollar corporate tax disputes. A board seat pays $95,052 a year and includes a state-provided automobile and personal staff.

The Republican sources, who asked not to be identified, said names of other people that have surfaced for the board post include state Sen. Frank Hill of Whittier; Matthew K. Fong of Hacienda Heights, who ran unsuccessfully for state controller in November; Sen. Robert G. Beverly of Manhattan Beach; and Oscar Wright, a U.S. Small Business Administration regional administrator based in San Francisco. All are Republicans.

Bill Livingstone, Wilson's transition office press secretary, said he could not confirm names under consideration. Livingstone said Wilson's attention is focused on selecting people for higher-profile positions--including the U.S. Senate seat he must give up before his inauguration as governor next month--and on putting together a state budget.

Hill, who after several years in the Assembly won his Senate seat in a special election earlier this year, said he was not interested in the board seat.

Fong expressed interest in the slot, saying he wants to sit on the board "to make California a more hospitable place for business." Fong, the son of Democratic Secretary of State March Fong Eu, said he has lobbied Wilson for the appointment.

Beverly said: "My quick reaction is that I would be interested, mostly because it is something different. I've been (in the Legislature) a long time."

Beverly, who was elected state senator in 1976 after 10 years in the Assembly, said that he has not spoken to Wilson's transition staff about the appointment and that he is "not actively seeking" it.

Wright said he is pleased with his current job, which Wilson helped him obtain, but would consider an appointment to the board. He added that his candidacy is being promoted by other black Republicans in South-Central Los Angeles.

Even before the recent passage of Proposition 140, which limits legislative terms, jobs on the Board of Equalization were increasingly attracting the interest of lawmakers.

Though the post does not carry the prestige and public visibility of a legislative seat, historically it has offered more job security. Once elected or appointed, incumbents have rarely been defeated.

The most recent example of the security of incumbency was offered by Carpenter, a former Democratic state senator from Cypress. He easily won reelection in November to a second four-year term despite being convicted in September in U.S. District Court on four counts of racketeering, extortion and conspiracy. Carpenter's reelection was attributed, in part, to the heavily Democratic nature of his district.

Under state law, he must formally forfeit the seat when he is sentenced Monday.

Times staff writer Virginia Ellis contributed to this story.

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