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Lungren to Tap Public Discontent Over Crime in Bid for Reelection

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren announced Monday that he will seek reelection as the state’s top prosecutor, saying his work is not completed and blasting his Democratic foes as Johnny-come-latelys to the job of fighting crime.

With polls showing crime as the No. 1 issue in the state, Lungren vowed to tap the growing public discontent and promote crime reforms “stronger than ever before” to curb gangs, bolster police and aid victims of all ages.

“As we pursue even tougher policies aimed at criminals--and we do so without apology--I will also continue to push our societal response to crime in a comprehensive context,” Lungren said. “We must lead California away from a culture of violence to a culture of hope and civility where the rights of every person are respected.”

Lungren is unopposed in the Republican primary, but will face one of two Democrats trying to unseat him in November’s general election--Arlo Smith, the San Francisco district attorney who lost to Lungren by a scant margin in 1990, and Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove), a former federal prosecutor.

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Smith and Umberg have taken shots at Lungren in recent weeks, charging that public discontent over crime proves the attorney general has failed in his role as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

Lungren responded Monday by suggesting that his rivals, along with other Democrats, are recent converts to taking a tough stance on crime. The criticism against him, he said, “is a cheap and easy thing to say,” but fails to recognize his record during nearly four years as attorney general.

“I have been sounding the message of the problem with crime in this state; I’ve been sounding the message that the first duty of government must be public safety,” Lungren said. “It’s ridiculous for some of the Johnny-come-latelys to say now that they want to get on the bandwagon and replace the guy who has been driving the wagon in the right direction all along.”

Lungren made his announcement in an afternoon news conference in Sacramento after spending the morning in Los Angeles at a signing ceremony for the “three strikes and you’re out” anti-crime bill, a law he took some credit for helping craft. Lungren said he aided Mike Reynolds, the Fresno man who launched a crusade for the law after his daughter was murdered, by making several recommendations that were incorporated into the measure.

Among the other accomplishments Lungren cited were his efforts to ensure that the death penalty was restored in California, noting how his office argued with federal judges to overcome last-minute delays that held up the execution of Robert Alton Harris.

Lungren also said he has worked hard to produce a “comprehensive plan” that combines prevention, education and tough punishment to fight gangs. He also highlighted his “safe schools strategy” that calls for the optional use of metal detectors and other deterrents to campus crime.

With the state’s becoming “a Wild West shooting gallery for far too many children,” Lungren said he intends to work hard to change “the priorities and policies of California in a fundamental way. We can’t stop or turn back now.”


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