Pringle Weighs Bid for State Treasurer Post


Former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle is considering a bid for state treasurer, which would pit him against the only announced Latino Republican running statewide in a year that the GOP has repeatedly been warned against alienating Latino voters.

Pringle (R-Garden Grove) said he’ll announce his intentions Tuesday in Sacramento. He acknowledged that a race for treasurer was enhanced this week by a federal judge’s decision to throw out strict political contribution limits that would have limited his ability to challenge a well-funded opponent.

“You have to look at the horizon and make a decision about what you think is right,” Pringle said. “I think there will be a lot of changes [in races] between now and the filing deadline [in March]. Everything has a ripple effect.”


Already announced for the GOP primary is San Mateo County Supervisor Ruben Barrales. In November, veteran GOP strategist Stuart Spencer issued a surprise open letter in support of Barrales, warning party leaders that they risked “political suicide” by failing to back qualified Latino candidates in a state where the emerging Latino vote tipped heavily Democratic in 1996.

Further complicating things is Pringle’s political history. In 1988, the Orange County Republican Party posted uniformed security guards at 20 Santa Ana polling places carrying signs--paid for by Pringle’s campaign--reading, “Noncitizens can’t vote” in English and Spanish. Insurance companies representing Pringle and the party later paid $400,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by Latino voters who claimed they were intimidated.

Pringle said Thursday that “my history is my history” and that he hoped campaigns would be run based on a candidate’s qualifications.

“I think it’s important to see who the final candidates are,” he said. “I have no idea what the field will be.”

Pringle’s emergence in the race “doesn’t send a very good signal,” Spencer said. Sources said this week that among those Pringle consulted was Gov. Pete Wilson, who has praised Pringle’s political savvy and suitability for state office.

Barrales is committed to the treasurer’s race, Spencer said, despite “the Sacramento crowd trying to push this around.” Spencer and others said Pringle’s past definitely will be a factor with Latino voters, already angry with the GOP for its backing of successful measures to ban government-paid services for illegal immigrants and to end affirmative-action programs in state government.


Democratic Party leaders said Pringle has hand-delivered an issue to be used against him by Barrales and Democrats alike.

Party official Bob Mullholland said Pringle has been dogged by a trail of scandals, including the involvement of his chief of staff in a controversial 1995 recall race in Orange County that resulted in the prosecutions of four GOP aides, one Democratic decoy candidate and Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach).

“The trouble Curt Pringle has is too many headlines with his name and the word ‘crime’ in them,” Mullholland said from Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento.

California Republican Party Chairman Michael Schroeder declined comment on the race Thursday, saying the party doesn’t get involved in primary contests. But Schroeder has defended the GOP’s efforts to reach out to Latino voters.

Pringle had been eyeing the state controller’s job but apparently has decided to switch for several reasons, sources said. He wanted to avoid a showdown with incumbent Kathleen Connell, who had been considering running in the Democratic primary for governor. If U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein runs for governor as expected, Connell probably will run for reelection.

Another factor was the Tuesday’s decision by a federal district judge to invalidate most of Proposition 208, the 1996 state initiative placing first-time limits of $250 to $500 per person for political contributions in state races. The judge ruled the limits were too low and unconstitutional.


Among those announced for the treasurer’s race is millionaire Sacramento developer Phil Angelides, a former Democratic Party chairman whose ability to fund his own race would have placed at a disadvantage candidates raising funds under Prop. 208’s strict limits.

Pringle supporter Doy Henley, chairman of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, said he’s “a little unsettled” about the idea of a Pringle campaign against Barrales.

“Curt’s one of my closest friends and I’ll probably end up doing what he wants to do even if it’s against my better judgment,” Henley said. “If [supporting] Barrales is the thing we ought to do for the big picture, maybe that’s the way we ought to go.”