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California and the West

San Diego Mayor Golding Bows Out of U.S. Senate Race


Her effort hamstrung by a lack of money, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding withdrew Thursday from the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and said she will instead serve out her term as head of the state's second-largest city.

Golding's move followed days of rumors sparked by her inability to make much headway despite months of laboring in her Senate campaign.

At a hastily arranged nighttime news conference, Golding bowed out amid cheers from 75 supporters and staff members.

"It's a doable race and a winnable race, but only if I spend full time raising money," Golding said. "I care too much for this city to spend full time raising money to run for another office."

Her departure leaves the Republican race to unseat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer with two major candidates, state Treasurer Matt Fong and Visa car alarm mogul Darrell Issa.

In the most recent Los Angeles Times poll, taken in October, Fong led Golding by better than 2 to 1 among Republicans, with Issa coming in third. Although Fong has suffered organizational difficulties lately, he has far more money in the bank for the race than Golding had. And Issa, with an estimated worth exceeding $200 million, has committed to spending whatever it takes to win.

The businessman, making his first bid for elective office, today begins running television ads meant to introduce him to voters. The commercials are due to begin running in Los Angeles County next week and will be airing statewide within two weeks.

Golding, in contrast, had raised only about $900,000 and had already spent all but $100,000--not enough in a state in which a week of commercials can cost $1 million.

Golding's campaign was strong in theory but iffy in execution, built on her bipartisan popularity in San Diego and her connections to Gov. Pete Wilson, much of whose campaign structure she inherited.

But in the end she was doomed in her first statewide race much as Wilson was doomed in his initial statewide campaign--for governor--in 1978, when he was San Diego mayor.

San Diego has little reach politically or, as importantly, on the airwaves. Politicians in the Los Angeles area or the Bay Area serve in media markets that span several high-population counties, but San Diego's political structure has always been more isolated.

So Golding entered the race at a disadvantage, and what might have been pluses in the general election--her gender and her moderate image--did not help her among the generally conservative Republican primary voters. Her departure means that no women Republicans are pursuing statewide office this year.

Times staff writer Tony Perry in San Diego contributed to this story.

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