Declaring that the job is not "as much fun as other things these days," veteran Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum said Monday that he decided not to seek reelection because he has grown frustrated with his board colleagues and wants to spend more time with his family.
"Simply put, my priorities have changed," said Schabarum, an 18-year supervisor who is leader of the board's Republican majority.
"I prefer to enjoy other activities rather than put up with the frustration and stress associated with the Board of Supervisors. . . . Quite frankly, over the last several weeks I have been more interested in the birth of my grandchild rather than my prospects for reelection," said the 61-year-old supervisor, whose daughter gave birth Sunday to a boy.
Schabarum said that he will back a candidate to succeed him but refused to say whom he is considering. By late Monday, six candidates had taken out papers to run in the June 5 election, including Schabarum aide Sarah Flores and Robert Bartlett, mayor of Monrovia. Former U.S. Rep. Jim Lloyd--a Democrat-turned-Republican--said he will run.
At a packed Hall of Administration news conference, Schabarum scoffed at suggestions that his decision not to seek a fifth term could threaten the conservatives' decade-long control of the five-member board.
"You're still persisting in perpetrating a hoax on the public that there is a conservative majority," snapped Schabarum, who has previously referred to fellow Republican Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Deane Dana as "alleged conservatives."
Though Antonovich and Dana occasionally have broken ranks with Schabarum, the three supervisors generally have voted together on cutting health and welfare programs to provide more money for law enforcement and on private contracting of county services.
Schabarum said that he will not seek elective office again but plans to remain active in politics and support conservative candidates and causes, including an initiative to limit the terms of state officeholders to two terms.
Schabarum failed to file for reelection by last Friday's 5 p.m. deadline. Would-be successors now have only until Wednesday to file their papers to run for the seat.
Asked about criticism that his late decision made it difficult for other candidates to organize campaigns for the seat, the irascible Schabarum said simply, "Shucks."
And asked about what impact his decision would have on the federal redistricting lawsuit, Schabarum said, "Not much."
Only a few weeks remain in the trial on the suit. The suit was brought by the U.S. Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. It accuses the supervisors of drawing their districts in such a way as to preclude a Latino from winning a seat on the five-member board.
Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and Latino political leaders plan to ask the board today to redraw district boundaries in order to settle the lawsuit, which has cost the county $3 million in attorney fees.
Schabarum pointed out that U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon, who is hearing the case, said that he would not entertain settlement talks once the trial began. A spokesman for Kenyon said the judge would have no comment outside of the trial, which resumes today.
Schabarum said the lawsuit was a factor "about fourth behind grandparenthood" in his decision not to seek reelection. Last December, Schabarum helped scuttle a proposed settlement that would have forced him to run in a new, predominantly Latino district.
The 1st District, encompassing the San Gabriel Valley and southeastern Los Angeles County, historically has elected Republicans.
Schabarum made it clear that he will remain a force on the board until his term expires Dec. 3.
"It should be clearly understood that I have eight more months left in my current term," he said. "Make no mistake that I have a well-identified program of projects I intend to pursue with full vigor."
Schabarum said he has been contacted by "three or four" candidates seeking his support but declined to identify them. He said that Flores, a 52-year-old Republican, was a "prospect" for his support.
Superior Court Judge Gregory O'Brien said he is considering entering the race, while former state Sen. William Campbell, who recently became president of the California Manufacturers Assn., said he has been urged to enter the race but is "just listening at this point." Several San Gabriel Valley mayors also are eyeing the race. They have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to collect 20 voters' signatures and pay an $898.51 filing fee to qualify for the ballot.
Schabarum has about $500,000 in his campaign funds that could be used to support initiatives or be donated to a political party. But state law precludes transfering more than $1,000 from his campaign treasuries to other candidates for office.
Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) said that Schabarum asked him a month ago to consider running for his supervisorial seat. "He was anxious for me to take a look at it," said Mountjoy. But Mountjoy said he called Schabarum one week ago and told him "I preferred to stay in the legislature."
Mountjoy said criticism from Republican officials that Schabarum should have announced his intentions earlier are unfair. "Pete gave me every opportunity in the world (to run for his seat)," Mountjoy said.
Incumbents who filed for reelection are precluded under state law from filing to run for Schabarum's seat, said Melissa Warren, media director for the California secretary of state.
Schabarum's last-minute tactic appears to knock some prominent Latino challengers out of the race, including Rep. Esteban Torres (D-Los Angeles), who has filed for reelection. Torres now has his staff exploring legal challenges to the rule.
Schabarum said he plans to return to his real estate development business. He cited the supervisor's $89,951-a-year salary as a reason for leaving.
"It's a good salary for the kind of person that has trouble getting a job elsewhere perhaps," Schabarum said. "I do need to be considering . . . an income of larger proportions."