From the get-go, Tom Umberg knew it was going to be a tough job to turn out an incumbent Republican and win election to the 72nd Assembly District from central Orange County.
But now that he’s pulled off that political coup, the Garden Grove Democrat has discovered that, thanks to a monumental scheduling conflict, making plans to get to Sacramento next week just to be sworn in has been no cinch either.
As a rookie assemblyman, Umberg is supposed to be in the state Capitol at noon Monday to take his oath of office and immediately plunge with his legislative colleagues into a special session called by Gov. George Deukmejian to deal with a mounting state budget crisis.
Yet as a major in the Army Reserve, Umberg is scheduled to be in Charlottesville, Va., next week as part of his yearly commitment to the military.
Umberg said he’s managed to persuade the reserves to let him start his two-week tour on Tuesday so he can fly up to Sacramento for the swearing-in, cast a few votes and attend a reception in honor of his election before taking off for the East Coast. His original orders had him reporting for duty at 7:30 a.m. Monday--an assignment that would have precluded him from showing up in Sacramento.
But the Umberg household got another scheduling jolt Thursday, this one more severe: Tom’s wife, Robin, got a call from her 6252nd Army Reserve unit placing her on alert status to await call-up for up to six months of active duty.
“I was rather expecting this. At least it’s official now,” said Robin Umberg, a major in the reserves and an intensive care unit nurse, who is among 150 medical personnel based in Santa Ana being called to active duty, destination unknown.
“I don’t question being in the reserves. I’m ready for this professionally. But it’s as a mother that I have a lot of work to do. It’s a very emotional situation,” she said. The Umbergs plan to have their children stay with relatives and then a nanny while Umberg is in Sacramento and his wife is on active military duty.
For Umberg, his new 7:30 a.m. Tuesday military start time still means he will be away for much of the debate and votes having to do with Deukmejian’s proposal to chop $1 billion out of the state budget immediately.
Umberg said he’s hoping the Legislature will simply put off the business until Governor-elect Pete Wilson is sworn in next month. That way, he can serve out his two weeks of military duty and return to Sacramento before lawmakers really hunker down to business.
If not, he said, he’s prepared to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice. “If it turns out there’s going to be some important vote, and my vote is necessary and there are going to be things that affect my constituents, then I will come back,” Umberg said Thursday.
“Nothing’s come easy,” Umberg said. “We had a tough primary. We had a tough election. This is par for the course.”