GOLDEN STATE ROUNDUP (IN ABSENTIA)
March 2 had particular significance for me because, without exception, during every California primary for the previous 12 years I had spent several days in the Golden State. My trips were filled with frantic rushes to interview candidates on their final campaign stops, and then an early morning flight after the Tuesday night election parties to dash off stories. From Bruce Herschensohn’s dramatic victory in the 1992 U.S. Senate primary in 1992 to Bill Simon’s triumph in the gubernatorial primary last year–not to mention the historic recall election–the political news from the California primary was more often than not the things of which front pages were made.
This year, however, with the exception of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two spending initiatives on the ballot, there were few contests of compelling interest on the right. Thus, for the first time in a dozen years, I stayed home and watched the results from afar. The only statewide contest–that for the Republican U. S. Senate nomination–was all but ignored by most of the media and there were only a handful of contested primaries for U.S. House and legislative seats. Among them. . .
NOT KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Given the brief time from the December filing deadline to the primary last week, it was almost a foregone conclusion that former Secretary of State (1994-2002) Bill Jones would win the nomination to oppose Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Well-known after two winning statewide races and a bid for governor in ’02, Fresno farmer and moderate-to-conservative Jones had the highest name recognition of the four major candidates as well as the endorsement of Gov. Schwarzenegger. Both factors worked to his advantage in a race that was more a sprint than a marathon.
Jones rolled up about 44.6% of the vote, compared to 20.1% for moderate former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin of Los Angeles County, 11.1% for the conservative favorite, former State Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian of San Diego, and 6.3% for liberal Los Altos Mayor Toni Casey.
“COMEBACK KID” LUNGREN UPSETS OLLER (MAYBE)
Easily the hardest-fought GOP primary for the U.S. House was in the 3rd District (Sacramento), where moderate Republican Rep. Doug Ose is retiring after six years. In what could be a dramatic upset, at press time, former State Attorney General (1990-94) and 1998 gubernatorial nominee Dan Lungren held a slim lead over the long-presumed front-runner, State Sen. Rico Oller, by far the most conservative candidate. With absentee votes still to be counted, Lungren had 38.5% of the vote, to Oller’s 36.3% with the remaining 23% going to Mary Ose, sister of the outgoing congressman. The results were particularly dramatic because when he did serve in Congress from 1978-88, Lungren represented the Long Beach area, more than 100 miles from Sacramento.
Less than two weeks before the primary, Oller told me that his steadfast stand against illegal immigration had at that point helped him overtake the better-known Lungren and would probably be pivotal to a victory. However, Lungren’s heavy last-minute spending–in good part to deploy a hard-hitting television endorsement from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich–may have turned the tables. Lungren also had the strong support of his close friend, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R.-Calif.)
DORNAN’S LAST HURRAH
In what had to be the last hurrah for former Rep. (1976-82, 1984-96) Robert K. Dornan, the conservative firebrand lost a comeback bid to eight-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. During the campaign, Dornan denounced what he said was a lack of support for Israel and two pro-gay votes in Congress cast by Rohrabacher, Despite the attacks, Rohrabacher (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 96%) rolled up an 83%-to-16% margin over the 70-year-old former congressman (lifetime ACU rating: 96%).
Commenting on Dornan’s surprise move into the 46th to challenge a fellow conservative, Jon Fleischman–former executive director of the California Republican Party and past president of the conservative California Republican Assembly–said: “The old Bob Dornan that everyone knew and loved is gone. The new Bob Dornan is totally unglued from reality. Orange County’s conservative voters sent him packing back to Washington with a new label: ‘gadfly.'”
With the exit of Democratic Rep. Cal Dooley from the 20th District after 14 years, former State Sen. Jim Costa, who has represented the Central Valley in the legislature for 24 years, won with 73% against Lisa Quigley, Dooley’s longtime top aide and hand-picked successor.
Given the Democratic schism and the likelihood that Dooley will not exactly break his back for Costa, the 20th has become the California House district Republicans have the best chance of picking up. The GOP has a strong standard-bearer in State Sen. Roy Ashburn, who has represented Bakersfield as legislator and supervisor for more than 15 years.
LANTOS LIVES ON
Like Dana Rohrabacher on the Republican side, Rep. Tom Lantos was the lone Democratic congressman from California to face a serious renomination fight last week. Unlike Rohrabacher, however, Lantos (lifetime ACU rating: 9%) had the good luck to have two opponents dividing the votes against him among Democrats in the 12th District (Northern California). The challengers, Rhohit Khanna and Maad Abu-Ghazalah, also did not run great campaigns. So at 76, his Bela Lugosi-like Hungarian accent intact after more than 60 years in the United States, Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, was renominated with about 73.3% of the vote.
COX DEFEATS CLINTON — BY PROXY
In the most fiercely contested Republican primary battle for an Assembly seat, stalwart conservative Chuck DeVore, a former aide to Rep. Christopher Cox (R.-Calif.) topped a five-candidate field in the 70th District (Orange County) with 46% of the vote. DeVore’s chief opponent, liberal businesswoman Cristi Cristich, drew about 26% of the vote.
ADM. ROBERT GARRICK, R.I.P.
May 29, 1993: “You have to hear this one!”, went the message on my answering machine from friend and HUMAN EVENTS subscriber Larry Adamy of Pasadena, Calif. He thereupon played a message of his own he had received from a mutual friend, retired U.S. Navy Admiral and former Reagan Administration official Robert Garrick. “The Benedict Arnold of the Republican Party has finally shown his true colors!” was the message from Garrick, delivered as if he were shouting orders to all hands on deck. Garrick was referring to the news that President Clinton had named David Gergen, former White House adviser to Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, to his White House team. (Garrick had always believed that Gergen, as a very junior aide in the Nixon White House, was the mysterious “Deep Throat” who fed damaging information on the President to Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
The message was typical Bob Garrick–excited, straightforward, and from the heart. It was just one fond memory of him that I recalled upon learning that the old sailor and longtime California conservative had died December 18 at age 83 after a long bout with pneumonia.
Garrick joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor. During four years of active duty under Adm. Chester Nimitz, Garrick oversaw civilian and military press and newsreels covering the Navy. (Garrick remained in the reserves and, in 1973, became the first public affairs officer to be promoted to rear admiral).
Following World War II, Garrick wore several hats: He was assistant director for public relations for the Times Mirror Corp. in Los Angeles and then head of his own public relations company, owner of an avocado and orange ranch in Bonsall (Calif.), and breeder and racer of thoroughbred horses.
Republican politics was also a passion for Garrick. In 1980, he headed up research and policy development for the Bush-Reagan campaign and worked closely with campaign manager William Casey. Following Reagan’s election, Garrick served as deputy to White House Counselor Ed Meese and was later named to the board of the Communications Satellite Corp.
Among those attending Garrick’s funeral at Forest Lawn in Glendale were such fellow conservatives as Rohrabacher, Herschensohn, and retired Editor-in-Chief of Copley Newspapers Herb Klein, the longtime press secretary to Richard Nixon. Klein may have best summed up his old friend when he said of Garrick: “Honor described his creed in every aspect of a bountiful life.”