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Roberti Announces Bid for State Treasurer : Politics: He portrays himself as a feisty underdog who refuses to give recall foes the satisfaction of seeing him pass up a run for office.

March 12, 1994|CYNTHIA H. CRAFT and JERRY GILLAM | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Saying he won't be intimidated by a local recall election, state Sen. David A. Roberti formally announced his bid for state treasurer Friday and pledged to turn the fiscal office into a crime-fighting unit.

In press conferences in Van Nuys and Sacramento, Roberti reiterated the gun-control themes of the bruising San Fernando Valley recall campaign that has all but overshadowed Roberti's plans for his political future.

The longtime legislator, who has served in the Assembly and Senate for 27 years, portrayed himself as a feisty underdog who refuses to give his recall opponents the satisfaction of seeing him pass up a run for statewide office.

Recall backers trying to get Roberti booted from his 20th District seat claim he is a soft-on-crime liberal, a carpetbagger who lives outside the district and that he failed to put a halt to Capitol corruption during his 13-year reign as Senate president pro tem.

But because gun-rights advocates are among the recall's backers, the campaign to oust Roberti has also become a referendum on the 1989 assault weapon ban he authored.

"Let me say this to assault weapon extremists--you will not stop me from becoming treasurer of California," an impassioned Roberti declared Friday. "Because the people of California want a treasurer committed to finding and deploying all the fiscal resources possible in the fight against violent crime."

Roberti said he would attempt to redefine the office of state treasurer as a vehicle to help curb the growing violence that plagues California's streets and schools.

He would do this, he said, by prudently selling bonds, investing retirement funds and providing fiscal advice to cities and counties so they can afford to put more police on the streets.

Also, Roberti said he would shoulder the responsibility to ensure California has enough funds to build the estimated $6.6 billion worth of prisons needed as a result of the tough new "three strikes" sentencing law.

Roberti, forced by term limits to find a new job in December anyway, acknowledged that the recall effort had unexpectedly diverted his attention from his plans to run for statewide office.

He said he even considered a safer run for the lower-profile Board of Equalization so he could focus almost exclusively on battling the April 12 recall.

But, Roberti said, "I'm a fighter and I'm just not about to have these extremists push me out of office. So I'm going to go for what I want."

In the race for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer, Roberti faces a formidable challenger in Sacramento developer Phil Angelides. Angelides, the former state Democratic Party chairman, has raised about $2 million for his campaign, while Roberti has been forced to shift much of his general campaign money to the recall battle.

Angelides said Friday he has endorsements from both of California's senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as former Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Roos, who co-authored the assault weapon ban that now haunts Roberti in the recall.

"I am running for state treasurer to create 100,000 jobs by investing in California," Angelides said in a statement. "It is time for new leaders who can rebuild California."

The lone GOP candidate for state treasurer is Board of Equalization member Matt Fong of Los Angeles, who contended earlier that Roberti is a career politician who is past his prime.

In other statewide races, San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith withdrew Friday from the contest for attorney general.

Smith, who narrowly lost to Republican Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren in 1990 and had resumed campaigning in recent weeks, said he was concerned neither he nor Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove), another Democratic candidate for attorney general, could unseat Lungren after an expensive primary battle.

"The negatives and the high cost incurred in a primary skirmish would only aid a sitting attorney general," Smith said, adding that he will now throw his support to Umberg.

Meanwhile, in the governor's race, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson filed his declaration of candidacy for reelection as expected before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline. The three Democrats opposing him, state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi and state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) also filed their papers.

Democratic Controller Gray Davis filed the necessary papers to run for lieutenant governor to replace Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, who is retiring. Assemblyman Stan Statham (R-Oak Run), who wants to split California into three states, and Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) will oppose each other for the GOP nomination.

Acting Secretary of State Tony Miller, a Democrat, filed to replace his old boss, March Fong Eu, who resigned after being nominated to a U.S. ambassadorship. Other Democrats in the same race are former Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore of Los Angeles. Former Assembly Republican leader Bill Jones of Fresno is seeking the nomination on the GOP side.

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