SACRAMENTO — Former Assemblyman Tom McClintock, a Ventura County conservative Republican and anti-tax crusader, today will announce plans to run for state controller.
A staunch critic of waste in government spending, McClintock is trying to recapture public office after losing a congressional bid last year to Democratic Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson in a district that encompasses most of Thousand Oaks.
McClintock, 37, a Republican who represented Ventura County in the Legislature for a decade ending in 1992, said Wednesday that he considers the controller's post the perfect outlet for his vision of government reform.
"The more I looked at the controller's office, the more it became clear that everything I want to accomplish in public office falls in its purview," McClintock said. "And that is to identify, expose and eliminate waste throughout the state bureaucracy."
Up to this point, the outspoken director of the Center for the California Taxpayer had been mentioned in conservative circles as a possible challenger to Gov. Pete Wilson in next June's Republican primary.
McClintock admitted he was tempted to seek the governor's seat, but decided the state controller's office was more winnable.
"I came to the conclusion that Wilson can probably be beaten in the Republican primary and (Democrat Kathleen) Brown can probably be beaten in the general election, but they can't both be beaten."
Just as he often assailed fellow state lawmakers during budget debates, McClintock has not been shy about criticizing the governor. In a scalding opinion article published earlier this year, McClintock said Wilson was so tainted by tax increases, deficit spending and state budget shell games that former Democratic Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. actually made a better Republican than Wilson.
Sometimes described as strident and unyielding in his views, McClintock is also known for putting forth specific proposals to cut through what he contends is a thicket of government overspending and excessive taxation.
"I have issued very precise warnings of the deterioration of the fiscal condition of the state and proposed literally hundreds of spending reforms totaling billions of dollars of savings," he said Wednesday. "The controller's office is the ideal office from which to wage a crusade to eliminate government waste."
But other lawmakers have at times accused McClintock of using inaccurate data to drive home his points. Two years ago, for example, state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) asked Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill to check McClintock's figures, and she was unable to verify them.
While pursuing the office of California's chief fiscal watchdog, McClintock said he plans to take a leave of absence next spring from the taxpayer advocacy group he heads in Sacramento. He said he will continue to maintain his Thousand Oaks residence, although he lived and worked in the Sacramento area for the past year.
He is the first prominent Republican to enter the race for state controller, the $90,000-a-year post that accounts for and disburses state money. Democratic State Controller Gray Davis is leaving the job to run for lieutenant governor.
Also running for state controller are Democrats Rusty Areias, an assemblyman from San Jose, and Brad Sherman of Granada Hills, who is chairman of the State Board of Equalization.