Assemblyman-elect Gary G. Miller, who beat five other candidates to win the seat of recalled Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher (I-Diamond Bar), is very clear about his priorities at the state Capitol.
"The first order of business we're going to focus on is leadership, to vote in a Republican Speaker," said Miller, a Diamond Bar Republican who is expected to be sworn in today.
Miller, 46, finished Tuesday's election with almost 40% of the vote, about 7 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor, Republican Barbara S. Stone, a political science professor and a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees.
A wealthy developer, Miller will represent the 60th District for the remainder of Horcher's term, which expires in December, 1996. The district includes the communities of Diamond Bar, West Covina and Walnut, and portions of La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Pomona, Rowland Heights and Whittier.
Horcher had represented the district since 1990 and had won three elections as a Republican, the most recent in November. But on Tuesday, nearly 63% of the electorate voted to recall him because of the crucial role he played in blocking a Republican takeover of the Assembly.
Miller pledged Wednesday to be the loyalist that Horcher wasn't.
In December, the GOP was poised to take control of the Assembly for the first time in more than two decades but the transfer of power was thwarted when Horcher bolted the party, declared himself an independent and gave Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) the one-vote edge he needed to retain his leadership post.
Horcher's recall and the election of Miller was a key step in a renewed Republican drive to lead the Assembly. Once Miller is sworn in, the Assembly will have 39 Republicans and 39 Democrats. But the GOP is expected to have the advantage later this year when special elections will be held to fill two vacant seats in Republican-leaning districts.
The election of Miller should especially help Republican Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga), the man who sought to succeed Brown last year. Brulte and many members of the Assembly's Republican delegation endorsed Miller.
Horcher's defection badly embarrassed Brulte, who was already touting himself as the new Speaker, and raised questions about whether he had what it takes to head the Assembly.
"Right now, Brulte is the Republican leader and I intend to vote for Jim Brulte," said Miller, a Diamond Bar city councilman.
From the start, political pundits gave Miller the advantage in Tuesday's election because of his willingness to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money on his campaign.
Miller had spent heavily on two unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate.
Miller loaned $300,000 of his own money to his campaign, which fired out numerous campaign mailers and used extensive phone-banking.
"This is a man who has been lavish in his pursuit for office," said political scientist Alan Heslop, a professor at Claremont McKenna College. "More important than the success of any theme was the amount of . . . money spent."
Stone, who had the endorsements of state Sen. Richard L. Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) and former Gov. George Deukmejian, reported raising about $130,000 in her effort to succeed Horcher.
The campaign to replace Horcher quickly turned bitter.
Stone put out the first negative mailer, accusing Miller of being a contentious councilman who has cost Diamond Bar hundreds of thousands of dollars for his role in the ongoing battle over the city's General Plan. She sent out another mailer taking a swipe at Miller for his endorsements, implying that outside political forces were trying to influence a local race.
Miller branded Stone a hypocrite, saying she tried to win over some assemblymen who endorsed him--which Stone acknowledged doing.
Miller also fired out negative mail accusing Stone of being a liberal who supported new bond indebtedness and affirmative action quotas as a community college trustee.
Stone, the daughter of former Assemblyman Joe Shell, a onetime Republican minority floor leader, said she opposes affirmative action quotas. But she did approve an outreach program to attract women to Rio Hondo's auto mechanic classes. She also voted to enable the district to sell bonds to raise money for building repair and maintenance at Rio Hondo.
In addition to the leadership issue, Miller promises to fight illegal immigration, oppose new taxes, oppose affirmative action quotas and support the state's "three strikes" law.
He also wants to make the state more business-friendly by cutting red tape and over-regulation.
Horcher, a lawyer, said he plans to revive his dormant law practice now that he will not debating laws in the Capitol.
Embittered by the defeat, Horcher late Tuesday night accused Gov. Pete Wilson of getting behind the recall to further his political career. Wilson sent out mailers early in the campaign urging voters to sign recall petitions to put the measure on the ballot.
"It was not a grass-roots effort," Horcher said. "It was pure political lynching led by the governor."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
ELECTION RETURNS 60th ASSEMBLY DISTRICT Special Recall Election Encompasses all or parts of Diamond Bar, West Covina, Walnut, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Pomona, Rowland Heights and Whittier 177 of 177 Precincts Reporting Shall Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher be recalled? Votes, % Yes: 34,014, 62.6% No: 20,361, 37.4%
Candidates to succeed Horcher, if recall succeeds Candidate: Votes, % Jim Hale (R): 1,08, 2.3% Royal Meservy (R): 1,153, 2.5% Gary G. Miller (R): 18,304, 39.5% Barbara S. Stone (R): 14,951, 32.3% Andrew M. Ramirez (D): 9,595, 20.7% Matt Piazza (L): 1,200, 2.6%