The surprise decision by a San Pedro assemblyman to drop out of the race to succeed Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) has given an unexpected boost to the fledgling congressional campaign of Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder.
Political analysts said Wieder, 67, is now in the best position to succeed Lungren in the 42nd Congressional District, assuming that Lungren's nomination as state treasurer is confirmed by the Legislature.
The latest development in the maneuvering for Lungren's seat--potential candidates such as Wieder are waiting until Lungren is confirmed before formally announcing--came when Assemblyman Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro) announced Friday night that he is withdrawing from the race.
In another development, Deane Dana III, the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, said Saturday he intends to challenge Felando in the 51st Assembly district.
It was a sudden reversal for Felando, whose campaign had been given a boost when another Los Angeles County candidate, Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Signal Hill), said he was no longer interested in running for Lungren's seat. Felando cited personal reasons for withdrawing.
The 42nd District stretches from Torrance and the Palos Verdes Peninsula to Huntington Beach. Lungren, a Republican, is waiting for the Legislature to act on his nomination as state treasurer.
With Felando out of the race, analysts gave strong odds for Wieder to take the Republican nomination.
Wieder, an Orange County supervisor for the past nine years and past mayor of Huntington Beach, also was pleased that her opponent with the greatest name recognition had dropped out.
"This should open the door because he isn't there," Wieder said Saturday. "Not having him there makes other things, like fund raising, easier. I am giving it the good old college try, and if the seat is vacant, I will try to succeed Dan Lungren and continue that legacy."
Other Republicans who have been mentioned as possible candidates include Dana Rohrabacher, 40, a presidential speech writer from Palos Verdes Peninsula; Andrew Littlefair, a former White House advance man who worked briefly for Texas financier T. Boone Pickens; and Robert Welbourn, a former Palos Verdes Estates city councilman.
Also said to be interested in the race are Dr. Stephen Horn, former president of Cal State Long Beach, and Dr. Seymour Alban, a Jewish community leader in Long Beach.
Eileen Padberg, a GOP consultant and adviser to Wieder, said Felando's sudden departure from the race "makes Harriett an easy winner. Felando would have been one of the toughest opponents."
Padberg dismissed reports that Felando's withdrawal would add to speculation that Lungren's appointment was in trouble. Earlier in the week, 18 Democrats announced their intention to oppose Lungren's confirmation when it goes to the Assembly next month.
"I think certainly it is a possibility" that Lungren may not be confirmed, she said, "although I have great confidence in George Deukmejian. I believe the governor wants Lungren confirmed, therefore I have great faith in the governor that he definitely is going to get this one through."
Wieder, who earlier estimated that it would take $500,000 to wage a successful campaign, may also be able to spend less without an opponent with high name recognition in the race, Padberg said.
'But with or without Felando, you'll still need $250,000, at least," she said.
However, Wieder said she would still have to spend about $500,000, "considering the size of the district and the number of people who need to be contacted."
"I think this leaves me where I started," she said. "I started from a good point because of the demographics from the district that say that 45% to 48% of the registered Republican voters are in Orange County.
"I am acting like a candidate and doing all the things a candidate should be doing, and when the gun goes off I'll come running out of the gate," she said.