Outspoken Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Robert Ryan said this week that he may wage a write-in campaign this fall against Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican congressional candidate in the 42nd Congressional District.
"If I can't find a good candidate, I'll get into it as a write-in candidate," Ryan said in an interview Tuesday. "I'll go out and knock some heads."
But Rohrabacher said Wednesday that he is "not worried at all" about Ryan's threat. "This guy's comments are totally off the wall," Rohrabacher said.
A moderate Republican, Ryan said he fears that the election of former White House speech writer Rohrabacher, an ardent conservative, would be an "unmitigated disaster" for the district.
'Tom Hayden of the Right'
The heavily Republican 42nd District stretches from Torrance around the Palos Verdes Peninsula and across a narrow band of Long Beach to Huntington Beach and northwestern Orange County.
"He is the Tom Hayden of the right," Ryan said. "He represents someone in the speech writer corps that was always trying to push Ronald Reagan into extreme positions." He accused Rohrabacher, who was registered as a Libertarian before taking his job at the White House eight years ago, as a "Libertarian at heart."
"So what?" Rohrabacher responded. "I used to be a very strong Libertarian in the past, and I mean in the distant past. But . . . I am now a Reagan Republican at heart and there shouldn't be any doubt about that."
He added, "I think my views are totally within the mainstream of the Republican Party."
Rohrabacher easily defeated Orange County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder and half a dozen other candidates in an expensive and bitter contest for the seat long held by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach). Lungren, who gave up the seat, eventually lost his bid to be confirmed as Gov. George Deukmejian's choice for state treasurer. Rohrabacher is expected to have little trouble defeating Democrat Guy Kimbrough of Huntington Beach and Peace and Freedom Party candidate Richard D. Rose of Long Beach in November.
A former member of the Libertarian Party, Rohrabacher was an outspoken advocate of the Libertarian philosophy of personal freedom and limited government while a student at Cal State Long Beach in the late 1960s. He helped establish a Libertarian Supper Club in Southern California in 1969.
Worked as Newsman
Rohrabacher later worked as a radio newsman and editorial writer for the Orange County Register before joining the Reagan White House as a presidential speech writer in January, 1981.
Ryan also complained that Rohrabacher, who returned to Palos Verdes Estates last March to run for Congress, is a "carpetbagger" who rents a room at a friend's home and does not live in the district.
Rohrabacher said the 42nd District is where he grew up and went to school and that, in any case, GOP voters rejected the carpetbagging charge by nominating him.
"No one can blame someone who leaves town in order to serve Ronald Reagan in the White House and then comes home to offer his services to the people of his home district," Rohrabacher said.