Mike Curb Enters Race for Lt. Governor

Times Staff Writer

Mike Curb, whose four years as lieutenant governor were peppered by controversy, used an unusual appeal Wednesday to tell voters that he wants his old job back: He apologized for not doing better the first time around.

In a 90-second television commercial officially kicking off his campaign for the Republican primary, Curb, a record company executive, said that serving under Democratic Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. from 1978-82 simply brought the worst out in him.

“When you have to work with a governor like Jerry Brown and you have to guide a state with an absentee governor, there is bound to be some controversy,” Curb says in the commercial that is to be aired in 11 major markets statewide.


“I’ve always tried to do what I felt was in the best interests of all the people of the state of California. I’ve grown. I’ve got a family of my own. I’ve had unique and valuable experience and I can do a better job today.”

Expanding on that theme, Curb said in a separate statement: “Along with my successes, like everyone else, I have had my share of mistakes. . . . I truly regret that.”

Curb’s formal entrance into the GOP primary race had been expected because he has been busy raising money and assembling a campaign team headed by veteran consultant Bill Roberts. Roberts helped engineer President Reagan’s 1966 California gubernatorial election as well as Gov. George Deukejian’s 1982 election.

Curb, 41, is the first Republican to file papers in the primary race for lieutenant governor. However, two others, Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande and state Sen. H. L. Richardson of Glendora also have said they would be vying for the right to challenge incumbent Democrat Leo McCarthy, who is not expected to have major opposition.

Considered one of the GOP’s most potent fund-raisers, Curb already has amassed more than $400,000 in his campaign and expects to more than double that at 10 dinners and receptions throughout California over the next two months.

Nestande, by contrast, raised about $335,000 last year but had only about $50,000 left in December. Two campaign committees directly controlled by Richardson reported less than $12,000 on hand at the end of 1985.


Curb said in an interview Wednesday that he intends to stay clear of any direct attacks on his Republican rivals and said he will concentrate instead on what he sees as McCarthy’s weak spots--his support for California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and his recent decision to support the death penalty, after years of opposing it.

Curb’s strategists indicated that they also are hoping to cash in on Nestande’s lack of statewide name recognition and Richardson’s image as a combative and often inflexible spokesman for the hard right.

Curb’s public persona, however, carries much negative baggage from his years of open combat with Brown and from a number of controversies that surrounded his earlier campaigns.

He was the first lieutenant governor in 85 years not to come from the same party as the governor. He elevated the visibility of the often obscure office by defying Brown, making judicial appointments and signing executive orders while the governor was out of state running for President. His tenure also was marked by chronic and long periods of absenteeism from the Capitol.

Curb fought a bruising campaign against Deukmejian in the 1983 gubernatorial primary. Later, his record company was investigated and ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by the Deukmejian-headed Justice Department. The probe involved allegations that Curb’s firm had participated in a scheme to sell records illegally.

There also were questions about Curb’s draft status and an embarrassing disclosure that he had not registered to vote until he was 29.

Curb said he has learned his lessons from those controversies and is trying to put his old image behind him.

“I don’t want that image,” he said. “It’s not the way I am in business. It came from working with a governor who was out of state almost a year. . . . These were unique times under Jerry Brown.”

Partly to reflect that new, calmer exterior, Curb avoided the kind of political hoopla that surrounds most official candidacy announcements. There were no statewide rallies and no press conferences.

Curb merely put his commercial on the air and told reporters he would be waiting to answer their questions in a hotel suite overlooking the back lot of Universal Studios, where his record company is headquartered.

Insisting that he has patched up past differences with Deukmejian, Curb said, “It’s been nearly 12 years since California had a Republican governor and lieutenant governor, and Gov. Deukmejian needs a Republican who will share his goals for the state of California.”

As the campaign unfolds, he added, “it will become apparent” that McCarthy cannot work with Deukmejian because he is a “liberal big spender who is pro-tax and soft on crime.”