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California and the West

Rogan Rules Out U.S. Senate Bid

Politics: Glendale Republican cites family reasons in surprise announcement that he will not challenge Feinstein.

April 28, 1999|MARK Z. BARABAK and CATHLEEN DECKER | TIMES POLITICAL WRITERS

Dashing the hopes of many fellow Republicans, U.S. Rep. James E. Rogan on Tuesday ruled out an uphill race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ending the prospect of a high-profile statewide referendum on the impeachment of President Clinton.

Rogan said he made his surprise decision after returning to Washington from a triumphant weekend appearance before conservative activists, where he basked in repeated ovations and chants of "Run, Rogan, run!"

The Glendale Republican, one of 13 House managers who prosecuted Clinton before the Senate, cited family reasons for skipping the statewide race. He has not decided whether to seek reelection to his House seat in November 2000. "Ultimately, it became apparent to me the Republican Party can do without me as a Senate candidate," Rogan said in a somber Tuesday afternoon interview. "I'm not sure my two little 6-year-olds can do without a dad at home for the next two years."

"The temptation was great," Rogan added. "But the cost at the end of the day was too high."

Rogan would have entered the Senate race as the strong GOP front-runner, thanks to his celebrity among party activists and a nationwide fund-raising base established in the wake of the impeachment battle. The only other serious Republican to announce plans to seek the party's Senate nomination is Bill Horn, a San Diego County supervisor virtually unknown outside his home region. GOP State Sen. Ray Haynes of Temecula has also mulled the possibility of running.

The 41-year-old Rogan, an articulate former prosecutor and Municipal Court judge, would have been a decided underdog against the popular and well-financed Feinstein. As it is, he will face a tough fight if he decides to seek reelection to the House seat he first won in 1996, representing a swath from Burbank to Pasadena and surrounding areas. State Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has already declared his candidacy for the seat, and Democrats nationally have made Rogan a top target.

Rogan said Tuesday that it was too soon to discuss the prospect of seeking reelection to the House. "I'm only three months into my [second] term," Rogan said. "I don't need to make that announcement now." But, he stressed, he will continue to raise campaign cash while deciding whether to run again.

Rogan's abrupt exit from the Senate race was unexpected, given the signals he was sending as recently as Sunday, when he teasingly hinted at his candidacy before a gathering of the California Republican Assembly, a group of grass-roots activists. Rogan had even gone so far as interviewing prospective members of a Senate campaign team.

Informally, he discussed the race with political consultant Dick Morris, among others. The involvement of Morris, a former Clinton advisor who easily switches party loyalty, would have put an added twist into Rogan's candidacy, aligning a politician with an image of personal rectitude with a consultant bounced from Clinton's 1996 campaign because of his lengthy dalliance with a prostitute.

But Rogan said Tuesday he "chatted with a whole lot of people" aside from Morris and never discussed a formal campaign role with the ex-Clinton administration insider. "He couldn't have been available for me to hire," Rogan said, noting Morris' obligations as a television commentator. "And I couldn't have afforded him anyway, if he was."

Rogan's political career to this point has been marked by serendipity. He won a special election to the Assembly in 1994, and was named majority leader in his first term. Two years later, when veteran Republican Rep. Carlos Moorhead retired, he made the leap to Congress.

But Rogan's future in the House is clouded. His district has leaned more and more Democratic, and is sure to be redrawn by Democrats to Rogan's disadvantage after next year's census.

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Times staff writer Faye Fiore in Washington contributed to this story.

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