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PATT MORRISON

Riordan's Next Move

April 27, 2001|PATT MORRISON

Name: Riordan, Richard J.

Last job held: mayor of Los Angeles

How long? 8 years, 0 months

Salary: $1 per year

References: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Eli Broad, the guys down at the Friars Club.

With two months left on the lease to his City Hall job, Richard Riordan isn't remotely in need of gainful employment. The word "multimillionaire" sticks to his name like gum to a wingtip shoe.

And he really doesn't need to fill out an application. Closing in on his 71st birthday, Riordan has become something of a hot number. A twice-elected, self-financed California Republican moderate? Quick, call the Endangered Species List. Everybody wants a piece of that.

So what jobs could Riordan be underlining in the help wanted ads?

* A Gray Davis appointment to the State Board of Education.

* A series of Bush administration assignments as a Red Adair sans portfolio, for California in particular.

* Some job at the Los Angeles Unified School District, maybe even superintendent.

* The Republican candidate for governor of California in 2002.

*

Take the longshot job first.

Roll it around on the tongue. Gov. Richard Riordan.

Riordan spun it across the dance floor for a few bars back in 1998, but then he sat out the rest of the "Gubernatorial Waltz," and in the end he left with the one who brung him, Los Angeles.

Now it's 2001. Gray Davis' halo is in brownout. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken himself out of the running altogether, and Bill Jones, the stalwart secretary of state, the Republicans' only statewide elected official, seems to have volunteered to run out of duty and by default.

Riordan's friends are at least as rich as Davis' friends, and that is bogglingly rich. Riordan got along with Bill Clinton and he gets along with George W. He endorsed the state's Democratic doyenne, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, when she ran against Michael Huffington, another guy with "multimillionaire" stuck to his name, and she in turn endorsed Riordan's reelection.

And California's Republican right, the state's self-indulgent kingmaker, shot itself in the foot but good in 1998, when its darling, Dan Lungren, got stomped by 20 points in the general Democratic stampede. A pro-choice GOP moderate might just be able to pick his way past the corpses.

When cable public affairs show host Bill Rosendahl asked Riordan about the governor thing last month, he answered with his standard quip, "I have nothing against the people of California," and then his standard feint, "I do not intend to run for governor."

Los Angeles Schools Supt.

Richard Riordan

His dream job in nightmare circumstances. It's pure Riordan: idealism fed by ire, his faith in education infuriated by the mess he perceives on Ft. Moore Hill, the district headquarters. He says he wants to help out over at the school district after he leaves City Hall, maybe as computer czar, but he'd probably love to be able to nudge Roy Romer diplomatically out from behind the wheel and steer the district himself. Some think Riordan has been planning this all along, laying the groundwork by getting "his" candidates elected to the school board.

Richard Riordan,

White House trouble-shooter

Bush's election showing in the 31st state was so flabby that some L.A.-area auto dealer was running an ad spoofing Dubya's accent, thanking all the Californians who voted for him--"both of yuh." Riordan endorsed Bush, and the White House could use someone like Riordan to extend an olive branch to California instead of the sharpened stick it's been poking around up until now. Riordan's name doesn't resonate much north of the Grapevine (see Gov. Richard Riordan, above) but L.A.'s the place, as Bill Clinton knew. The White House is said to be figuring out just how to make use of Riordan, who is more Mr. Fixit than Mr. GOP.

Richard Riordan,

California Board of Education member

Word is that Davis means to appoint Riordan to the board that handles such matters as splitting school districts, textbooks and test standards. It'd be canny of Davis to choose a man who might possibly run against him, but anyone who has ever watched him fidget and twiddle during MTA board meetings would conclude he is not a boardroom kind of guy.

Whatever position it is, the pay's got to be better than his last job.

*

Patt Morrison's column appears Fridays. Her e-mail is patt.morrison@latimes.com

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