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More bad news for California GOP
Rising star Jim Rogan won't challenge Dianne Feinstein.

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By Anthony York

April 29, 1999 | The shell-shocked California Republican Party was dealt another blow Tuesday, as Rep. James Rogan announced he would not take on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2000. Rogan, who became a superstar among the party faithful for his role as an impeachment manager in the trial of President Clinton, was the presumptive front-runner for the party's nomination, and national media were already circling in anticipation of a Rogan-Feinstein matchup.

Rogan's decision caught party leaders by surprise. In Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, Rogan cited the cost of the race and family concerns as his reasons for not running. "I'm not sure my two little 6-year-olds can do without a dad at home for the next two years." Rogan did not say whether he would seek reelection to his congressional seat, which is near the top of the Democratic hit list for 2000.

His quick exit is the latest in a flood of bad news that has plagued the party since last November. Their candidates for U.S. Senate and governor both lost by double-digit margins last fall, and only two Republicans were elected to statewide office. As a result, the Republican bench was severely depleted, and the party has desperately sought someone to lead it out of the wilderness.

Rogan looked like the man. He was the star of February's California Republican Party convention. The gathering was billed as a convocation of the party's top candidates for president, all coming to pay homage to California's 54 electoral votes and March 7 primary date. But as marquee names like Quayle, McCain and Forbes addressed the party faithful from the dais, Rogan drew the limelight, working the floor, signing autographs, posing for photos, and handing out buttons.

"It was as close to a rock star reception as a bunch of Republican activists are capable of," joked Chris Bertolli, former assistant executive director of the California Republican Party.

Impeachment made Rogan a rising star of the California GOP, which has seen its popularity decline after years of controlling the governorship and, for a while, the state Assembly. Now Democrats run Sacramento, and hold both of the state's U.S. Senate seats. Ironically, although his role in the Clinton impeachment battle bumped him onto the A-list of potential GOP statewide candidates -- admittedly a short list, given the party's recent drubbing at the polls -- it may have doomed his chance to retain his congressional seat in Democratic-leaning Glendale.

Earlier this year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was shopping poll numbers that showed 37 percent of voters in California's 27th Congressional District were less likely to vote for Rogan because of his role as a House manager, and only 34 percent of voters were likely to vote for his reelection. Those numbers helped lure state Sen. Adam Schiff, a popular moderate Democrat and former federal prosecutor whose senate district encompasses all of the 27th Congressional District, to carry the party's torch next fall. It's possible Rogan may not even run for reelection, but if he does, the race will be one of the most closely watched, and most expensive, in the country next year.

Schiff, who spent more than $1.7 million to win his state Senate seat in 1996, said he has been told by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. that his race is near the top of the priority list for congressional Democrats. "You want to make sure when you get into a race like this that you're going to have national help," he said. Schiff speculated that, should Rogan stay and run for reelection, his spending will eclipse his 1996 total.

 Next page | "Put a stake in his heart"


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