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California and the West

Del Junco Pleads for Another Term on Regents Board

June 24, 1997|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — University of California Board of Regents Chairman Tirso del Junco pleaded with state senators Monday to confirm him for another term in spite of his Republican activism and his vote to scrap university affirmative action programs.

At an emotional hearing of the Democratic-controlled Senate Rules Committee, Del Junco, a former chairman of the California GOP who was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson, called on Democrats to sweep aside political issues and approve him on his merits.

"I ask you to allow me a chance," Del Junco pleaded. He noted that he is supported by other regents, retiring UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young and Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, an ex-officio regent.

"They want to see the confirmation process kept clean of political concerns," Del Junco told the committee of three Democrats and two Republicans.

Senate Leader Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), the committee chairman, indicated after the 3 1/2-hour hearing that his own concerns about Del Junco may be softening.

"I haven't reached any conclusion personally," he told Del Junco. "I'm not sure if anyone landed a punch, but if they were able to, you were left standing and punched back. We'll continue to talk."

In addition to Del Junco, the committee also took testimony on two other regent nominees--Gerald L. Parsky and Peter G. Preuss. The panel plans to delay a vote on each until later.

Del Junco, whose Republican activism stretches back in California to the mid-1960s, when Ronald Reagan was governor, was first appointed in 1985 by Gov. George Deukmejian to a 12-year term on the board. Wilson reappointed him in March to fill the unexpired three-year term of a regent who resigned.

Lockyer, the Legislature's most powerful single member, has predicted that Del Junco would not win confirmation by the Democratic-dominated Senate because of his "excessive" partisanship and his controversial vote in 1995 to eliminate gender and race-based affirmative action enrollment programs.

Del Junco, a Cuban American physician, agreed that he holds "strong political ideals," as demonstrated by his participation in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. But he denied charges that he played a role in the alleged politicalization of the UC board of regents.

Del Junco drew support from fellow regent Roy Brophy, a contractor from Sacramento, who voted against eliminating affirmative action at UC. He said Del Junco should not be judged solely on his vote to junk affirmative action.

"It is incredibly important that you not turn him down for that one vote," Brophy told the committee. He said the regents needed Del Junco's expertise as a medical doctor during negotiations to merge the hospitals and medical schools of Stanford University and UC San Francisco.

But Lockyer told Brophy that affirmative action aside, "there are a lot of reasons to [reject Del Junco]."

Del Junco said that even in the face of a recent decline in enrollments at UC by minority group students, it is important to keep the university's doors open to all students through intensified "'outreach programs."

He also was supported by Velma Montoya, a fellow regent, and Tom Sayles of Los Angeles, a former member of Wilson's cabinet.

Del Junco was criticized, however, by other witnesses, including former regent Ralph Carmona, state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), current Regent Richard Russell, Kit Costello of the California Nurses Assn., and Deborah Davis of the UC Student Assn.

Polanco, chairman of the Legislature's Latino Caucus, charged that Del Junco had a poor attendance record at regents' meetings, that he had voted to increase students' fees and had campaigned for Proposition 187, which among other provisions sought to eliminate publicly supported health care for illegal immigrants.

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