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Senator First in GOP Fray : Seymour Running for Lieutenant Governor

Times Staff Writer

State Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim) announced Monday that he has begun a campaign for lieutenant governor and hopes to raise $250,000 by July 1 to establish himself as a credible statewide candidate.

Seymour said he has filed papers with the California secretary of state’s office to establish an “exploratory committee” for his campaign, which he said will probably fizzle if he cannot meet his fund-raising goal by the middle of the year.

The former mayor of Anaheim said he sees the chance for a “senior-partner/junior-partner” relationship with Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who intends to run for governor in 1990.

Seymour, who was chairman of Wilson’s reelection campaign steering committee in 1988, said he believes that Wilson would grant him more authority as lieutenant governor than past chief executives have allotted to their seconds in command.

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“There’s going to be a unique opportunity should Pete Wilson become governor,” Seymour said. “We’re somewhat philosophical soul mates. I could be a lieutenant governor who takes on specific issues and handles them for the governor.”

Seymour is the first candidate to enter the race for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. Sens. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) and Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) and San Diego County Supervisor Susan Golding have also expressed interest in the job.

Bergeson said Seymour’s decision “doesn’t have any impact” on her plans. She said she is not worried by Seymour’s pledge to raise $250,000 by July 1.

“It’s a little early to be involved in a statewide race,” she said. “I feel like I have an obligation to my legislative responsibilities. The potential for fund raising is available when and if I decide I want to go.”

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Campbell, the unsuccessful Republican nominee for state controller in 1986, also downplayed the importance of Seymour’s early start.

“We’re so far away from the election that the only people interested right now are the political groupies,” he said. “I’ve run for statewide office before. I spent $2.5 million on name identification. I have better name-ID than anyone talking about running.”

Seymour, 51, is a millionaire former owner of a real estate business. He was elected mayor of Anaheim in 1978 and moved to the state Senate in 1982 when he won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Sen. John V. Briggs, who retired.

Quickly Climbed Ladder

Seymour quickly climbed the political ladder within the Legislature’s upper house, winning the post of chairman of the Republican Caucus after barely a year in the Senate. In that job, Seymour was responsible for raising campaign money and coordinating strategy in GOP races.

But after Republicans lost a key special election in 1987, Seymour was pressured to resign his leadership slot. He said at the time that he welcomed the opportunity to concentrate his energy on his own political career.

On state policy, Seymour has long set a moderate tone. He has been a spokesman for more money for education and transportation. He introduced legislation to enable toll roads to be built in Orange County.

On Monday, as Seymour pushed a bill through the Senate to ensure continued money for the state’s regional centers for mentally retarded, a Senate colleague described him as a “bleeding-heart conservative.”

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Seymour said his work on behalf of the retarded, education interests and the real estate industry will give him a natural base of support that he hopes to build upon for his statewide race.

Raising Political Money

But Seymour, who is almost unknown outside Orange County, said such “grass-roots” backing will mean little without the substantial sums of money it takes to reach voters throughout the state.

The task of raising political money became more difficult last year when the voters passed Proposition 73, which for the first time placed limits on the amount individuals and businesses can contribute to candidates for state office.

Seymour said he believes that a contested primary for lieutenant governor would cost $1 million to $2 million. If he does not raise $250,000 by July 1, he said, he will “have to assess the situation.”

“If I saw the money was going to be coming in shortly, I might continue,” he said. “If I saw there was just no way, I’d probably withdraw.”

To achieve his goal, Seymour said, he will hold perhaps eight or 10 fund-raisers between now and June 30. He said one of the first will be a major Orange County event.

‘Orange County’s Candidate’

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“I think one of my strengths as a candidate is that Orange County Republican support that has been so generous in supporting Republican candidates statewide,” he said. “I’d like to go down and have a very successful fund-raiser there and establish that I could potentially become Orange County’s candidate.”

Seymour acknowledged that claiming Orange County as a regional base would be more difficult if other lawmakers in the county also run.

“Obviously, if Sen. Campbell or Sen. Bergeson were to become a candidate for lieutenant governor, we would split the base down in Orange County,” he said. “That would be unfortunate.”


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