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Put Education Over Politics : Democrats should acquiesce on Bergeson as Honig's replacement

April 21, 1993

The campaign by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) to block the nomination of Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) as state superintendent of public instruction reached a predictable outcome Monday with an Assembly committee vote against her confirmation--all the "no" votes were Democrats, all the "yes" votes Republican.

That vote will be followed by the floor vote, expected Thursday. For the nomination to survive and move on to the Senate, Bergeson must get the support of at least 10 Democrats willing to go against the powerful Speaker.

All of this maneuvering comes against a candidate who has the credentials for the job as a former teacher, school board member and respected Sacramento legislator. Bergeson does not harbor any illusions about the political process. But neither does she deserve to be tarred and feathered as some darling of the Religious Right.

The reality is that Bergeson, named to succeed Bill Honig, is about as good a Republican nomination as is likely to be issued from the office of Gov. Pete Wilson. Depending on how this all plays out, it's conceivable that the alternative to Bergeson could be no superintendent of public instruction until an election is held next year.

What a shame that would be for the state's education system, which needs a high-level advocate. And then, into the vacuum could come a bona fide extremist candidate. Clearly, Brown's insistence on a Democrat to replace Democrat Honig is unwarranted.

And the partisan bickering doesn't serve the public well. A governor, Republican or Democrat, makes appointments based on qualifications and yes, usually political affiliation. A nominee for a state job ought not be rejected only because she or he is of the same party as the governor. The Democrats might be sorry they took this tack the next time there is a Democratic governor, perhaps as early as next year.

What irony that all of this arises over a "nonpartisan office." The state's education needs should take precedence over politics.

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