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Wilson Aide May Run for Beilenson's Seat


WASHINGTON — Richard Sybert, a senior aide to Gov. Pete Wilson and an experienced Los Angeles County Republican activist, said Monday that he is seriously exploring the prospect of running next year for the seat held by nine-term Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills).

In a bid to establish immediate political credibility, Sybert has loaned $310,000 of his own funds to an exploratory committee. He has also retained veteran Sacramento political consultants Ray McNally and Richard Temple and Calabasas pollster Arnie Steinberg.

Sybert, an attorney who is state director of planning and research, is at least the fourth Republican considering a 1994 bid to oppose Beilenson in the highly competitive 24th District that extends from Sherman Oaks to Malibu and up to Thousand Oaks in Ventura County.

And with his financial resources, political ties and impressive resume, the 41-year-old Southern California native could be among the most formidable. He said state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) was among those who have promised to support him if he enters the race.

"Tony Beilenson is highly respected, he's very intelligent, and he's a nice guy," said Sybert, who has had professional dealings with Beilenson. But "he's way too liberal for the district. I just don't think he represents the San Fernando or Conejo Valley."

Beilenson's support for President Clinton's economic program "was sort of the nail in the coffin as far as I was concerned," Sybert said. "There are a lot of people who are angry about it, and I think with good reason."

Sybert, 41, describes himself as a "moderate Republican," conservative on fiscal issues with a "strong libertarian streak" on social issues. He is pro-abortion rights and said he has sought to devise "a balanced strategy to protect the environment while the state grows." A former White House Fellow, Sybert is a Harvard Law School graduate and has an MBA from UCLA.

But Sybert, who has never sought public office, would carry some political baggage.

Although his wife is from Thousand Oaks, he has never lived in the 24th District and opponents would probably brand him as a carpetbagger. A former resident of Westwood and Pasadena, Sybert said he would move from Sacramento to the district and set up his own law firm in Woodland Hills in the next month or two if he decides to run.

His association with Wilson could also be a double-edged sword: It would help him establish his bona fides and in courting campaign contributors but it would also be a target as the unpopular Republican governor wages an anticipated uphill reelection effort next year. Sybert said he had received "fatherly counsel" from Wilson but had not discussed a possible endorsement.

"I'm running as my own man," Sybert said. "But at the same time, I'm not going to run away from the governor. I think he's a good man and I hope he's reelected."

Sybert, a former partner in a Los Angeles law firm, said he was prepared to commit $500,000 of his funds to his campaign and would seek to raise $500,000.

Beilenson garnered more than $750,000 on his way to a surprisingly convincing reelection victory last year over former Republican Assemblyman Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks.

Other Republicans who have expressed interest in the race are Bill Spillane, a Thousand Oaks pilot who finished third in last year's GOP primary; Robert K. Hammer, a Newbury Park investment banker, and Mark B. Benhard, an Agoura planning and political consultant and former aide to ex-Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton).

Beilenson was on vacation Monday and could not be reached for comment, a spokeswoman said. He has vowed to seek reelection next year but has declined in the past to discuss potential opponents until one challenger emerges from the Republican primary.

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