By deciding not to seek a third term in 1990, Gov. George Deukmejian may have created the opportunity for achieving real progress in California during his final two years in Sacramento. Freed of the constraints and tensions of a reelection campaign, the 60-year-old Republican now is in a position to work effectively with the Democratic leaders in the Legislature in building a brighter future for the Golden State.
The governor seemed to relish that prospect as he announced to Sacramento correspondents on Thursday that he will retire from public life in January, 1991, after 30 years as state legislator, attorney general and governor. “I like the job,” he said, sounding as if he really does.
Deukmejian acknowledged the obvious during his press conference: If he were running for a third term, majority Democrats in the Legislature’s two houses would be out to thwart his programs. They would not do anything to enhance the governor’s record, and thus his prospects for winning another four years as governor. Without the albatross of a bitter campaign, Deukmejian said that he intends to be an active governor who will not simply wait for the clock to run out on his final term.
The prospect of having a governor engaged in give-and-take with the Legislature would be a welcome change from recent years in Sacramento, which have been marked by wearisome partisan stalemates, with the governor rarely emerging from his office. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) already had announced that he will spend more time on policy issues this year and less on party affairs. And Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) is secure enough in his job to allow for some innovative negotiation of California’s long list of problems.
Deukmejian had been under intense pressure from influential Republicans to seek reelection, but he said that he was not interested in setting records for longevity in office. Rather, the governor said that he seeks more accomplishments in office in his remaining two years, and the best way to do that is by not running for a third term.
What might have been two years of bitter discontent and lack of achievement in Sacramento suddenly has become a two-year window of opportunity for the leaders of California. They must not let it slip shut.