Charles A. O’Brien, 83, a former California deputy attorney general who narrowly lost the 1970 election for attorney general to Evelle Younger, died Sept. 3 at his home in Danville, Calif., after a period of declining health, his family said.
O’Brien joined the attorney general’s office in 1959 under Stanley Mosk, left in 1961 for a stint as Gov. Pat Brown’s executive secretary, then a year later became manager of Mosk’s reelection campaign.
After Mosk won the 1962 race, he named O’Brien, a fellow Democrat, as his deputy.
O’Brien remained deputy when Thomas Lynch became attorney general in 1964 upon Mosk’s appointment to the state Supreme Court. When Lynch, a Democrat, decided not to seek reelection in 1970, O’Brien became the party’s nominee.
The race between O’Brien and Younger, a Republican and then the Los Angeles County district attorney, was hard fought, with both candidates running on similar law-and- order platforms. Younger prevailed by a margin of 43,086 votes out of 6.5 million ballots cast in the election, according to reports in The Times.
O’Brien returned to private practice in San Francisco. In the 1970s, he represented the California Physicians Crisis Committee, an organization of doctors who sought to curb medical malpractice insurance rates, and lobbied for legislation that capped damage awards in medical malpractice suits. He retired in 2004.
Born Sept. 1, 1925, in Lawrence, Mass., O’Brien enlisted in the Army at age 17 and fought in Europe during World War II.
After the war, he enrolled at Harvard, majoring in government, and graduated with honors in 1950.
He earned his law degree at Harvard in 1953, then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Marie. He went into private practice and became active in Democratic politics.