Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Harriett M. Wieder said Wednesday that she will run for the congressional seat held by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) if he is confirmed as state treasurer.
"That's what it looks like," said Wieder, a Republican. "I have not declared yet because the office isn't vacant. But when it becomes vacant, I will be ready."
Wieder said she has formed an exploratory committee, hired a pollster and is in the process of forming a finance committee and negotiating a contract for a campaign manager.
"She has that look in her eye," said political consultant Eileen Padberg, who will act as an adviser to Wieder if she runs. "She's very excited. It's a new challenge for her."
Wieder's candidacy raises the prospect of two women in the county's five-member congressional delegation. On Monday, Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach) announced that he will not seek a seventh term in the 40th District. Among the strongest potential contenders to succeed him is state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), who is expected to announce her plans next week.
As for Lungren's as-yet-unvacated seat in the 42nd District, the only announced candidate is Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro). Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill), who at first said he would run, decided a month ago to forgo the race in the predominantly Republican district to avoid an internecine GOP conflict.
A battle between Wieder, 67, and Felando, 53, would pit two of the Republican Party's veteran political consultants against one another. Felando will again use Allan Hoffenblum, a veteran of Felando's and other GOP legislative races; Wieder plans to hire Tony Marsh, who has been involved in several congressional contests.
Wieder, a nine-year member of the Board of Supervisors, expressed interest in Lungren's seat in November when Gov. George Deukmejian chose him to succeed state Treasurer Jesse M. Unruh, who died last August.
Lungren's confirmation hearings in the Assembly and the state Senate are due to begin Monday. Although at first it appeared he would have trouble being confirmed, there are indications now that the Democratic-controlled Legislature will probably have a hard time bucking the governor's choice.
If Lungren is confirmed, Deukmejian will set a special election--probably for April 25--in the 42nd Congressional District. About 47% of the district's voters live in Orange County, and the rest are residents of southwestern Los Angeles County.
Hoffenblum, who said Felando has already lent his own campaign $200,000, estimated that $350,000 or more would be needed to make the run, depending on the competition. He speculated that Wieder may have trouble raising the cash in Orange County in light of the contest over Badham's seat and competition for other seats that might be vacated if Bergeson or other lawmakers decide to run for other offices.
"She's not going to be the only one going around trying to raise money in Orange County," Hoffenblum said.
But Wieder said she will be able to raise the $500,000 she said is needed for the contest. She said her accountant determined that about $44,000 of her $160,000 campaign fund could be used for a federal election, in which campaign-contribution restrictions differ from a local race. She is tentatively planning a fund-raiser in March.
Wieder and others in Republican Party politics in Orange County say she has received virtually no opposition to the idea of a run for Congress.
Among the issues that can be expected in the campaign is Wieder's age. Since Congress reserves its influential posts for those who have seniority, there is talk that Wieder would not be able to serve long enough to do the district any good.
Although Felando, once chairman of the Assembly Committee on Aging, said he would "absolutely not" raise the issue of Wieder's age, Hoffenblum said it could be expected to be an issue.
But Wieder said: "I've got some good years to serve. . . . I have the experience that only comes with age and the energy to execute it."
Wieder's departure from the board, where she has been a member for nine years, would set the stage for a race for her seat. Huntington Beach Mayor John P. Erskine said Wednesday that he is "definitely" interested in running for the board if Wieder leaves.