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COVER STORY : All Roads in Horn's Career Seemed to Lead to Congress

October 20, 1994|EDMUND NEWTON

For the past two years, the Long Beach-based 38th Congressional District has been represented by a flinty academician who carries himself with an air of self-confidence.

You could say that Steve Horn, 63, had been preparing for a seat in Congress for 30 years. A political science professor who has taught a seminar called "The Legislative Process" and the owner of a library of 7,000 books on Congress, he has been in and out of government service since 1959.

Horn ascribed his election in 1992 to sheer chance--running in a newly drawn congressional district that proved favorable for a moderate Republican.

He is a native of rural San Benito County in central California, where his father, a geologist, built a house with his own hands. "We didn't have electricity until I was 10," Horn said. "We got a telephone in 1949. . . . As President Eisenhower once said, I guess we were poor but we didn't know it."

Horn's earliest political hero was Hiram Johnson, the longtime leader of the Progressive Party in California and a reform-minded governor and U.S. senator who attacked the Southern Pacific Railroad's political power in the state.

Horn, who holds a master's degree in public administration from Harvard and a doctorate in political science from Stanford, still carries in his wallet index cards with quotes from the fiery Johnson.

In the early 1960s, Horn worked for six years as a legislative assistant to Republican Sen. Thomas H. Kuchel of California, then became a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and later a dean at American University there.

In 1970, he was appointed president of Cal State Long Beach, a post he held for 17 1/2 years. His tenure was marked by some notable achievements, including the opening up of the campus to elderly and disabled students. But there was also a long-running feud with the school's Academic Senate, which represents the faculty.

"It was my observation that he did not respect the faculty," says Ben Cunningham, a retired journalism professor and former chairman of the Academic Senate.

The group censured Horn twice, in 1973 and 1981, for challenging faculty prerogatives such as tenure protections. Horn stepped down from the presidency in 1988 after a management review team formed by the Cal State Board of Trustees criticized his management skills.

Horn made his first bid for Congress in 1988, in a district that extended from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to Orange County. He lost in the GOP primary to Dana Rohrabacher, who then went on to win the seat.

Horn is married to Nini Horn, a volunteer in his Washington office who has been active in the past in the Long Beach public schools. The couple have a son, Stephen Jr., who is managing his father's campaign, and a daughter, Marcia, who is a lawyer in Phoenix. Last spring, Horn was found to have prostate cancer. But after surgery in May there have been no signs of the disease's recurrence, he said.

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