State Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) on Monday opted out of the 40th Congressional District race, opening the way for a tough Republican battle to succeed Rep. Robert E. Badham.
In announcing her decision, Bergeson said, “The advantages in Congress really were not that compelling in comparison to what I could do in the state Legislature.”
She said she was gratified by the “outpouring of support” that came her way after Badham, also a Newport Beach Republican, announced on Jan. 3 that he would not seek a seventh term, but she had decided to run for reelection in her Senate district this fall.
Bergeson, who has four grown children with her husband, Garth, said that “proximity to my family was a very important factor in my decision as well.”
According to several people close to her, Bergeson, 60, said another factor was the seniority system in Congress. It would have been several years before she could have risen within that system to a position of authority. In Sacramento, she is chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.
Bergeson, who was among those Gov. George Deukmejian considered as nominees for the position of state treasurer after Jesse M. Unruh died last year, said Monday she is still interested in statewide office.
Had Bergeson decided to run for Badham’s seat--in what is considered to be one of the safest Republican districts in the nation--nearly all conceded it was hers. Three elected officials who also were interested had indicated that they would sit out the race if Bergeson ran, although Badham’s opponent in the 1986 primary, Newport Beach business consultant Nathan Rosenberg, and two minor Republican candidates had said they would run against her.
A few hours after Bergeson made her announcement at a news conference, one of those elected officials, Irvine Councilman C. David Baker, 34, declared his candidacy for Badham’s seat. The other two, Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), 53, and Orange County Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, 50, said they had not yet decided whether to run.
If Ferguson and Stanton decide to run in the 40th District rather than seek reelection, there would be contests to replace them, raising GOP fears that money would be drained from legislative races around the state where Republicans hope to gain seats from Democrats.
According to Orange County Republican Party Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes, there is an effort afoot to win agreement among party leaders on the major candidates in all the county races this year to avoid a “spend-a-thon” in the 40th Congressional District or any other GOP campaigns.
“I sensed them very much concerned that Republican dollars are not wasted,” he said of those involved. “At this point, I don’t think there is necessarily a free-for-all looming.”
Many people, however, doubt that such an agreement can be negotiated. And even if Republican leaders can agree on certain candidates, the elements for a chaotic year of campaigning are already in place.
In another part of the county, Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder has said she will run against Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) in the 42nd Congressional District, now held by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach). Lungren is Deukmejian’s Lungren confirmation hearing, Part I, Page 3.
choice to succeed Unruh and is now undergoing confirmation hearings in the Legislature.
Should Wieder win in the 42nd District, about 43% of which is in northwest Orange County, that would open up a seat on the Board of Supervisors.
In the 40th District, Rosenberg, who captured 34% of the vote against Badham in the 1986 primary, said he already has contributions or pledges for $375,000 and 300 volunteers to help him walk precincts and organize his campaign this year. He is tapping support from Orange County and around the nation from participants in the Forum, which was started by his brother, est founder Werner Erhard.
At a press conference Monday at his newly opened campaign headquarters on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, about 20 volunteers already were answering phones and licking envelopes. The candidate said that many of those involved in the campaign had never before been involved in partisan politics.
Rosenberg, 35, also has some GOP establishment support. Two Republican stalwarts, William Lyon and Kathryn Thompson, are his campaign chairman and finance chairman, respectively. Another GOP leader, John Cronin, is also a supporter. All three are members of the Lincoln Club, a prominent Republican support group.
But in some respects Rosenberg is viewed as a brash outsider. He already has stepped on some toes in this campaign--including Bergeson’s, who reportedly was offended by a phone call from Rosenberg a week ago in which he told her he was in the race to win, regardless of her decision on whether to run. Bergeson said she took that to mean something like “I’m going to beat you.”
“He had a chance to be gracious, and he chose to be confrontational,” said former Assemblyman and Supervisor Bruce Nestande, a friend of Bergeson.
Rosenberg said he was surprised by Bergeson’s response.
“If what other people have said is true, then I think I need to get back to Marian and let her know that was never my intent, to lean on her; that my intent was to make sure she had all the facts with which to make a decision,” Rosenberg said. “And I think that’s doing somebody a service, not a disservice.”
As for Ferguson, he said Monday that in the wake of Bergeson’s decision he is being pressured in certain Republican quarters to run for Badham’s seat. But he described himself as “ambivalent” because he would rather remain in the Assembly to play a leadership role in Project ’90, the GOP’s effort to take over the Legislature by the time of the reapportionment that follows the 1990 census.
If someone suitable cannot be found for Badham’s seat, Ferguson said, “I may have to make a very tough decision come the end of the week. We are looking for someone who has the characteristics and ability we think are necessary to represent this most Republican district.”
Ferguson indicated that he would have no problem supporting Baker, who Ferguson said may be “just the man to be running there.”
“He will make a very strong candidate whether I run or don’t run,” Ferguson said.
In announcing his candidacy, Baker said he had obtained pledges for $250,000 in two days last week, before Bergeson announced she would not run, and expected to raise as much as it takes to win. His political consultant, Frank Caterinicchio, said later that if Rosenberg raises $1 million, Baker will raise $500,000 and beat him.
In an apparent swipe at Rosenberg, Baker said at the press conference: “You can’t buy this election with money from outside the district.”
He added, “I don’t think they (voters) want a political opportunist seeking a higher office. They want an experienced, inspired leader prepared to serve the people for many years.”
Stanton said Monday that he is “not scheduling any press conferences at this time” because he has not decided whether to seek Badham’s seat.
“There is still a personal decision for me, based on personal desires and family welfare. Nothing’s happened to change that,” Stanton said. Stanton would have to give up a reelection bid to run for Badham’s seat, and some of his traditional financial supporters in the county’s development community might be less committed to backing a candidate for a federal office.
Also, Stanton switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party 3 1/2 years ago and may not be as acceptable in some GOP circles as other, lifelong Republican candidates.
Caterinicchio raised this issue Monday when he accused Stanton of favoring the appointment of Wylie Aitken, a Democrat, to the Orange County Transportation Commission.
“A true conservative Republican would not support an individual like Wylie Aitken,” Caterinicchio said. “I think that shows that Roger Stanton is a Democrat at heart.”
But Stanton never actually voted for Aitken, who is chairman of his supervisorial reelection campaign. He joined the other five members of the commission in a unanimous vote Monday for Republican Dana Reed.
Stanton, who said he never expressed a preference for Aitken publicly, called Caterinicchio a “hatchet man” for Baker.
“Baker has a political consultant that wants to start something before I’m even a declared candidate,” Stanton said. “That tells me a lot about his judgment.”
Other Republicans running in the 40th District are Tustin Councilman John Kelly and Charles S. Devore, a Pentagon liaison to the National Security Council, State Department and Congress who is registered to vote in Mission Viejo.
Another possible entry is White House counsel C. Christopher Cox, a former Newport Beach lawyer who maintains his legal address in Orange County.
A Democrat, Laguna Beach Councilwoman Lida Lenney, also is reportedly considering entering the race in the Democratic primary.
Times staff writers Lanie Jones, John Needham and Jeffrey A. Perlman contributed to this article.
C. David Baker
Job: Lawyer, Irvine Councilman.
If he runs for Congress, Baker’s council seat would be one of three on the June ballot. Potential council candidates are: Gen. W.A. (Art) Bloomer, 54, former commanding general of the El Tore Marine Corps Air Station; Councilman Ray Catalano, a UCI professor; Cameron Cosgrove, 30, a data processing manager and Irvine Planning Commissioner; Hal Maloney, 38, a county budget analyst and Irvine finance commissioner; Councilwoman Sally Anne Miller, a realtor; Mike Shea, 39, a carwash owner and Irvine finance commissioner, and Paula Werner, 40, former schoolteacher and Irvine transportation commissioner.
Gil W. Ferguson, 64
Job: Assemblyman (R-Newport Beach), public relations firm owner.
If Ferguson runs for Congress, potential candidates for his Assembly seat are: Jo Ellen Allen, 41, former college professor and president of Eagle Forum of California; attorney and former Assemblyman Ron Cordova, 41, now a member of the state GOP Central Committee.
John Kelly, 26
Job: Tustin city councilman, works in family’s retail business.
If Kelly were elected to Congress, the City Council would have 30 days to appoint a successor, or a special election would have to be called.
Roger R. Stanton, 50
Job: County supervisor, part-time college instructor.
If he runs for Congess, potential candidates to fill his 1st District seat are: Santa Ana Councilman John Acosta, 52, a general contractor; Fountain Valley Mayor Barbara Brown, 44, a substitute teacher; Fountain Valley Councilman George Scott, 54, an insurance agent; Santa Ana Mayor Dan Young, 37, a real estate developer.