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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : Statewide Races : ATTORNEY GENERAL

October 30, 1994

THE OFFICE

Often referred to as the state's top cop, the attorney general oversees a cadre of attorneys who handle appeals of criminal cases as well as enforcement of the state's environmental, consumer protection and civil rights laws. The office also collects criminal statistics and important policing data such as fingerprints and rap sheets. It handles forensic work and narcotics investigations.

MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATES

DAN LUNGREN, Republican

* Born: Sept. 23, 1946

* Residence: Roseville

* Current position: Attorney general

* Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Notre Dame; law degree, Georgetown University

* Career highlights: Elected to Congress in 1978 and served five terms. Nominated as state treasurer, but rejected by Democrat-dominated Legislature in 1988. Won narrow victory over Democrat Arlo Smith in 1990 attorney general race.

* Family: Married, three children

* Background: An unabashed conservative, Lungren is widely regarded as the Republican Party's most likely nominee for governor in 1998. He has spent large amounts of time in Washington as a student, staffer on the Republican National Committee and congressman, prompting some observers to speculate that Lungren is infected with "Potomac fever" and will instead run for the U.S. Senate. Lungren grew up in Long Beach, the son of a doctor who served as Richard Nixon's physician in the 1950s. During his decade in Congress, Lungren was regarded as bright and ideologically passionate, but with a pragmatic core. He helped win passage of a watershed crime package as well as the 1986 immigration act.

TOM UMBERG, Democrat

* Born: Sept. 25, 1955

* Residence: Garden Grove

* Current position: Member of the Assembly

* Education: Bachelor's degree, UCLA; law degree, UC Hastings School of Law

* Career highlights: Former military prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney. Elected to Assembly in 1990, becoming the only Orange County Democrat holding state or federal office. Reelected in 1992 with 60% of vote.

* Family: Married, three children

* Background: Should he win, Umberg would become the first challenger in modern times to defeat a sitting attorney general. Although only a two-term assemblyman, he gained enough support from Democratic powerbrokers to scare San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith, who lost narrowly to Lungren in 1990, out of the June primary. After law school, he became a military prosecutor, then served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Orange County, prosecuting cases involving drugs, white-collar crime and a headline-grabbing cross-burning incident. He vaulted to Sacramento after defeating an incumbent Republican in a nasty 1990 election confrontation. But in the Capitol he earned a reputation as an earnest, hard-working moderate. As a member of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, the Democrat-dominated graveyard for GOP crime bills, he consistently cast votes for law-and-order issues.

MINOR PARTY CANDIDATES

* RICHARD N. BURNS, Libertarian, 64, Woodland Hills trial attorney

* ROBERT J. EVANS, Peace & Freedom, 49, Berkeley criminal defense lawyer

The Issues

'THREE STRIKES'

Lungren takes credit as the first politician to help Mike Reynolds, the Fresno photographer who launched the "three strikes" movement in California. The attorney general supported the bill signed into law this year and the initiative on the November ballot. Umberg, who voted for the law when it first appeared in 1993, contends that Lungren did not surface on the issue until it became a hot topic this year. Although he supports the initiative, Umberg worries about the potential for prison overcrowding. His own version of the "three strikes" bill focused only on the most violent criminals.

CRIME RATE

A battle of statistics among the candidates. Umberg argues that the number of crimes in California has risen 2.1% since Lungren took office, with violent incidents swelling 7.8%. He questions whether voters feel "as safe today as they did four years ago." Lungren notes that crime dropped during the first six months of 1994 and the per-capita rate has fallen during his tenure. He expresses hope that it is the start of a downward trend prompted by tougher new laws, but says much more must be done.

GUN CONTROL

Neither supports a ban on all guns, but both get failing grades from the gun lobby. Lungren has irked gun owners by siding with Democrats on the state's assault weapons ban. He notes that his office enforced the state's 15-day waiting period for gun purchases, turning down 6,500 buyers in 1993. But he opposes proposals to ban cheap "Saturday night specials," saying it would strip the poor of the right to own a gun for protection. Umberg supports the waiting period, the assault weapons ban and wants to see more copycat weapons banned. He carried legislation designed to improve gun safety, particularly for households with children.

ENVIRONMENT

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