Punctuating major differences between himself and his would-be Republican successor, Gov. George Deukmejian on Wednesday criticized Sen. Pete Wilson's opposition to offshore oil development as "shortsighted" and not in the nation's interest.
The GOP governor also objected to Wilson's campaign pledge to create a state environmental protection agency, implying that the proposal merely was a political ploy and insisting that the new entity is not needed.
Wilson's campaign aides have been saying for some time that the senator would be a different kind of governor than Deukmejian, and a press conference held Wednesday by the lame-duck incumbent aptly illustrated the point.
A Wilson spokesman, Bill Livingston, said afterward that although the senator "has great admiration" for Deukmejian, the two "invariably disagree" on some issues. "Sen. Wilson is not a clone," the spokesman said.
Besides disagreeing with Deukmejian on offshore oil drilling, Wilson generally has been more pro-environment than the governor, advocating managed growth rather than laissez faire economic development. The two Republicans also have taken opposing positions on other issues, such as abortion; Deukmejian supports restrictions, Wilson is "pro-choice."
Illustrating the depth of their differences in style and ideology, one anonymous Wilson strategist recently commented to a reporter: " 'The Duke' has been asleep at the switch for the last couple of years." Another, referring to the crime issue, criticized Deukmejian's "one-note governorship--lock all the thugs up."
Deukmejian's main goal on Wednesday was to assure people residing along Orange County's beaches and trying to make a living there that everything possible is being done to clean up the oil spill. But he also said that "we should not fool ourselves. As long as California remains thoroughly dependent on imported oil . . . we are going to run the risk of having oil tanker accidents. . . .
"The fundamental lessons of this most recent oil spill is that the best thing we can do for California's environment and economy is to strike out hard against our dependency on imported oil and produce more California energy of all types right here at home."
And this, the governor said, includes offshore oil development "done in an environmentally safe manner."
The governor has refused to declare a state of emergency along oil-stained stretches of beach, saying it was unnecessary.
When a reporter pointed out that Wilson--who is virtually certain to be the GOP gubernatorial nominee--advocates banning any new offshore development, the governor responded:
"There is no question that he has a different view than I do on this subject. And I have said of these people who hold the view of wanting to continue a ban on any further offshore oil development, I think it's a very shortsighted view. And I think they're not looking at the bigger picture of the interest of our country and what the needs are. . . .
"I don't hear, for example, the people who are calling for a (drilling) ban calling on residents of this state to cut the consumption of the amount of gasoline that they use in half."
At another point, Deukmejian was asked about Wilson's pledge to establish a new state environmental agency--Cal-EPA--to oversee regulation of pesticides, hazardous waste, air and water pollution, garbage and recycling. One of the purposes is to take pesticide regulation away from the farmer-oriented state agriculture department. The governor dismissed the idea as lacking merit.
"I don't support making a change just to make a change," Deukmejian said. "I would support making changes if it is necessary . . . if there's some reason. At the present time, I don't believe there is sufficient reason to make that kind of change. The expertise in this area is in the Department of Food and Agriculture."
Wilson talked about his differences with Deukmejian on Tuesday in Santa Barbara while touring the state to officially announce his gubernatorial candidacy. Standing on an ocean-side cliff with oil platforms in the far background, the senator praised Deukmejian for being "perhaps the most pro-law enforcement governor in our history" and also said they share "concern for the hard-earned tax dollars of Californians."
"But we do have differences," Wilson added, citing offshore drilling and support for the California Coastal Commission, which he would give more money. The senator also said he would have unhesitatingly fully funded family-planning clinics, which Deukmejian reluctantly did only after having been pressured by fellow Republicans.
At his press conference, Deukmejian also jabbed at state Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The governor noted that Van de Kamp personally opposes capital punishment but still defends the state in death-penalty cases. So he questioned the attorney general's recent decision to withdraw as the state's lawyer in cases involving the logging of old-growth redwoods, just because Van de Kamp personally opposes the cutting.
"I'm finding it a little hard to figure out--whether people are more important to him than trees, or are trees more important to him than people," Deukmejian said. "I can't figure out his logic in all this."
A spokesman for Van de Kamp, Duane Peterson, said the logic is that Van de Kamp has not made a campaign issue out of capital punishment but is pushing to eliminate logging of old-growth redwoods. The attorney general does not want to be accused of providing poor legal representation for political purposes so is telling the state to get another lawyer, the spokesman said.
Times political writer Keith Love in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
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