State Treasurer Matt Fong said Friday he is being urged to run for higher office, and would consider a bid for either the governorship of California or the U.S. Senate in 1998.
But the 42-year-old Fong, a Republican, said he enjoys being treasurer and that "my present inclination would be to run for reelection."
"But two years is a long ways away. A lot of friends are asking me to look at different opinions," Fong said during a breakfast meeting with Southern California political writers.
Fong won a tough battle for treasurer in 1994 over former state Democratic Party Chairman Phil Angelides of Sacramento in his second bid for statewide office.
In 1992, Fong was swamped in a futile effort to unseat Democrat Gray Davis, who was running for a second term as state controller. Republican Gov. Pete Wilson subsequently appointed Fong to a vacancy on the five-member State Board of Equalization, which administers the state sales and property tax systems.
Davis was elected lieutenant governor in 1994 and now is considered a leading Democratic contender for the governorship in 1998, when Wilson completes his second term. Wilson is barred by state law from running again.
When a reporter noted that Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren is considered the early favorite to be the Republican nominee for governor in 1998, Fong said, "I heard rumors that he might be the vice president nominee. Or he might be U.S. attorney general. I don't know."
Lungren repeatedly has been mentioned as a potential running mate on the GOP ticket of Kansas Sen. Bob Dole this year, but few experts believe that is a strong possibility. As a Dole running mate, Lungren would resign his state office--and presumably give up 1998 gubernatorial aspirations--only if Dole was elected president.
Fong was asked whom he thought Dole should select as his running mate. He responded without hesitation: "Kemp." Jack Kemp, a former New York congressman and Cabinet member under Ronald Reagan, joined the GOP camp of publisher Steve Forbes during the height of the primary season.
Fong is one of several new GOP statewide elected officials expected to run for higher office in coming years. Others are Secretary of State Bill Jones and state Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush.
After devastating election losses in 1994, Democrats are left holding just two partisan elected offices, lieutenant governor and controller. Los Angeles businesswoman Kathleen Connell was elected controller to succeed Davis. Many expect her to challenge Davis for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Another potential Democratic candidate is U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who ran for the Senate after losing a narrow race for governor to Wilson in 1990.
The other major contest in 1998 will be for the U.S. Senate, when Democrat Barbara Boxer is expected to seek a second six-year term. There has been some speculation that Wilson might run for the Senate, where he served before he became governor. Many political experts, however, doubt that he will.
Also Friday, Fong said he has not decided whether to support the anti-affirmative action measure on the November ballot, called by supporters the "California civil rights initiative." Fong said he wants to know what impact the measure would have on female-owned businesses, which now receive preferences in the awarding of governmental contracts.