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California and the West

Latino Republican Enters Race for State Controller

March 17, 1998|ERIC LICHTBLAU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to shake Republicans' harsh image among many Latinos, a county supervisor from Northern California announced his candidacy for state controller Monday in a bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Kathleen Connell.

Ruben Barrales, a two-term supervisor in San Mateo County, kicked off his campaign on Olvera Street in Los Angeles with a speech in English and Spanish--symbolizing, he said, "my intent to carry the Republican message into neighborhoods where it is not often heard."

The 35-year-old official charged that Connell has ducked responsibility as controller, failed to execute promised audits and even impeded a criminal investigation by refusing to cooperate with the attorney general's office. "She has been more interested in publicity than performance," Barrales said.

A spokesman for Connell dismissed Barrales' charges as laughable.

"It's ironic that a person who's had difficulty even making up his mind what office he wants to pursue and has no obvious qualifications to handle any amount of money for a governmental agency would now criticize a woman who has compiled a remarkable record in office," said Fred Register, campaign manager for Connell's reelection. "When you don't have much of a record to run on, you tend to criticize the person you're running against."

Connell and Barrales settled on the controller's race after testing the political winds elsewhere.

In January, Connell rejected the idea of entering the race for governor; Barrales abandoned plans to run for state treasurer after former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle decided to enter the campaign.

"We have to pick our fights," said Barrales, a UC Riverside graduate.

As controller, Barrales said he wants to be an advocate for taxpayers and small businesses, improving efficiency and fiscal safeguards in the state's massive bureaucracy through stepped-up auditing and reviews into other departments. His first task, he said, would be to audit the state Department of Education and strengthen oversight of local districts "to make sure the dollars spent on education get to the classroom."

The son of Mexican immigrants, Barrales described himself as "the only Latino Republican candidate for statewide office in recent political memory." He said he has already secured endorsements from national Republican leaders including Gerald Ford, Dan Quayle and Jack Kemp as well as from state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren.

Only one other person, auditor Snow Hume of Fullerton, is seeking the Republican nomination for controller on the June 2 primary ballot, and Connell is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

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