--Energy: California is a leader in proving the value of conservation and in fostering solar and wind power. But its preferences need strong advocacy in Washington to counter the Bush Administration's assumption that only more oil exploration or nuclear energy provide the nation's power.
--Environment: The two senators whose seats are up (Gov. Pete Wilson and Alan Cranston, in office through 1992) have supported most of the state's top environmental demands. The emerging candidates will be weighed for their views on preserving ancient forests and endangered wild life; for opposing off-shore oil drilling (as Seymour promptly demonstrated); for preserving open space and protecting over-used national parks.
--Desert: The long effort to transfer some 7 million acres of California desert into national park protection, championed by Cranston, will now be in new hands, as will the drive to preserve wetlands. With so much new population, the preservation of open space and natural resources becomes more imperative than ever.
--Social issues: Health programs, health-insurance coverage and education improvement already grip national attention. But these topics often get swamped by rhetorical generalizations. It will be a challenge for candidates to be specific about reforms they favor. With 4.9 million school children now and thousands more each year, California could use Washington leadership.
There can be no doubt that the ultraconservatives will also make sure that there is debate on such issues as abortion, AIDS, civil rights and even the government's immigration policy.
When the dust settles and two new senators are installed, California may find, however, that its most important power center in Washington is not the Senate but the House. The state's large delegation will swell with at least seven more seats. Many of the state's House members hold key committee positions.
And now Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) has been named to head the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, which will be decisive in many California matters. It may be quite a while before the new senators pack as much weight.