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Pringle Joins GOP Field Seeking Treasurer's Post


SACRAMENTO — Former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) announced his candidacy for state treasurer Tuesday, setting up what could become a highly divisive race for the state's top fiscal job.

One of Pringle's rivals for the GOP treasurer nomination is Ruben Barrales, a San Mateo County supervisor and the only Latino Republican so far running for a statewide office.

Some top ranking Republicans have described Barrales as the GOP's best hope of attracting significant Latino votes in the general election against a Democrat.

But Pringle's entry into the race makes him arguably the front-runner for the nomination, given his fund-raising skills and long legislative experience.

Asked whether his move would cause divisions in Republican ranks, Pringle said, "All I can do is decide where I think I should be [running], and other people can make decisions where they wish to run. I don't think the field is set or firm."

Uncertainties about term limits and campaign finance restrictions--both in various stages of appeal in the courts--have made it difficult to plan, he said.

Pringle, who will be forced out of the Assembly by term limits late this year, said that for months he was intending to run for state controller but that he recently changed his mind.

He said a federal court's recent decision overturning the fund-raising limitations of Proposition 208 made the treasurer's race more attractive. The incumbent, Matt Fong, is running for the U.S. Senate, and Pringle said that without Proposition 208's restrictions he now can compete more equitably with wealthy Democrat Phil Angelides, the only Democratic competition so far. Angelides is a Sacramento developer.

The controller's office is held by Democrat Kathleen Connell, who is expected to seek reelection. Pringle has recommended combining the offices of controller and treasurer.

With the backing of such eminent Republicans as political consultant Stu Spencer, Barrales could be a significant Latino vote-getter for the Republican Party in a major partisan race, said his campaign manager, Kevin Spillane.

"Ruben is trying to broaden the base of the Republican Party," Spillane said.

The third Republican seeking the nomination for treasurer is Assemblyman Jan Goldsmith of Poway.

Spillane said both Barrales and Goldsmith had discussed running for controller but switched to treasurer "at Curt's behest" to avoid a clash with Pringle, who wanted a clear field in running for controller.

The change in Pringle's plans is "disconcerting, to say the least," Spillane said.

He said prominent Republicans, including Fong, have urged Barrales to bow out and run for controller. But Spillane said Spencer and other backers have advised Barrales to stay in the treasurer race "and that is our intent."

Democrats lost no time pouncing on Pringle for lining up against Barrales.

Just outside the room where Pringle announced his candidacy, Democratic campaign advisor Bob Mulholland passed out a one-line message to reporters saying: "Once again Pringle [is] . . . pushing a Latino, Barrales, out of the way."

The message was a reminder that in 1988 Pringle played a role in posting people at polling places in his Assembly district who warned that only citizens could vote. Pringle and other Republicans were sued and settled for $400,000.

Making his formal announcement at the California Chamber of Commerce offices in Sacramento, Pringle said his legislative service has always focused on the "fiscal aspects of California," qualifying him for the state's "No. 1 fiscal office."

If elected, he said he would be watchful of California's bond capacity and treat the position as "the state's banker, investment officer and our ambassador to Wall Street."

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