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Hurtt to Push GOP Takeover of State Senate : Politics: New Republican leader in upper house says he won't seek changes in policy until he can be sure they will pass.


SACRAMENTO — Newly elected Senate Republican leader Rob Hurtt said Friday that he will postpone pursuit of any New Right political policies and instead fight to oust majority Democrats with GOP candidates next year.

"It's not that I don't like policy or don't know policy, it's just that I understand succinctly that you can't do a heck of a lot with policy until you have the ability to pass it," Hurtt told reporters.

A wealthy industrialist from Garden Grove and underwriter of New Right legislative candidates, Hurtt narrowly overthrew moderate Senate GOP leader Ken Maddy of Fresno in a surprise move Thursday.

At his first formal news conference as GOP minority leader, an upbeat Hurtt said that he would "love to enter into the debate" over what he called such fundamental issues as outlawing abortion, but that it would be unproductive until there are more Republicans than Democrats in the Senate.

Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans 21 to 17 in the 40-seat Senate. There are also two independents who usually vote with Democrats. The seat of one independent, retiring Sen. Lucy Killea of San Diego, has been targeted by both major parties to win next year.

In response to questions, Hurtt said he did not foresee Senate Republicans in the near future abruptly getting more aggressive on such New Right issues as outlawing abortion. He also warned against expecting the launch of any other major policy initiatives in the final three weeks of the legislative session.

"The agenda is kind of set for this year," Hurtt said. But he added that Senate Republicans will continue to hammer away at such traditional themes as "fiscal responsibility," a balanced budget, lower taxes and aiding business.

Hurtt repeated his belief that his No. 1 task is not to advance Republican policy issues but to put the Senate in the hands of a GOP majority so that GOP policies can be enacted.

He also struck back at Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), who cited Hurtt as evidence that New Right "extremists" had tightened their grip on the GOP. By contrast, Lockyer forecast, "centrist Democrat" candidates would be more appealing to California voters.

Hurtt dismissed Lockyer's charge as proof that Democrats do not "really have too much to talk about of substance. All they can do is attack and demonize."

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