Former Gov. George Deukmejian endorsed commentator Bruce Herschensohn's Republican bid for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, becoming the second high-profile conservative to do so in a week and demonstrating the effectiveness of Herschensohn's effort to block the path of any late-arriving conservative candidates.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Robert Dornan of Garden Grove endorsed Herschensohn. Dornan and Deukmejian will serve as state chairmen of Herschensohn's campaign, symbolic positions that will allow them to raise money and twist arms on the candidate's behalf.
In an interview, Deukmejian praised Herschensohn's conservative credentials and said the commentator was a "stronger" candidate than Rep. Tom Campbell of Stanford, the more moderate Republican in the race for Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston's seat.
"I admire his (Herschensohn's) intellect, the views that he holds, and I think that he will make a significant contribution," said the former governor.
The endorsement by Deukmejian was not surprising, given the duo's shared political views and the fact that Herschensohn's campaign manager, Ken Khachigian, is a longtime ally of Deukmejian.
But the timing demonstrated that the former governor is more willing to practice politics now than he was while in office. In 1988, for example, he resisted endorsing presidential candidate George Bush until late spring, well after Bush had captured the nomination. On Thursday, Deukmejian said he feels he has "a little more freedom" than he had while in office.
The one-two punch of Dornan and Deukmejian, weighing in a year before the primary, marked a public attempt by Herschensohn to consolidate conservative backing.
The effort is driven by fears of a rerun of the 1986 Senate campaign, when conservative voters split among several candidates and the GOP nomination was won by a moderate, Ed Zschau. Herschensohn was the biggest vote-getter of the conservative candidates.
The endorsements are meant to send a message that any other conservative candidate would be entering the race as a "spoiler," to the benefit of Campbell. The latter message is chiefly aimed at Rep. David Dreier of La Verne who is still contemplating a bid.
In another sign that the campaigns are taking form, appointed Republican Sen. John Seymour, who also is running for election next year, named a trio of political consultants to manage his race.
Campaign consultant Stu Spencer--the state's senior Republican strategist and an adviser to Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bush--was named a chief strategist. Marty Wilson, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Pete Wilson, will be chief consultant.
Managing the campaign will be Richard McBride, a newcomer to California politics and a political operative for Texas Sen. Phil Gramm.
Republican sources said McBride is expected to provide the Seymour campaign with strong connections to the GOP's Washington power structure and to be a link to political action committee donors.
The trio was picked by an advisory group headed by Robert Nelson, an Orange County strategist who has been coordinating Seymour's campaign since Seymour was appointed in January.