Battle brewing over who will lead the GOP in the House

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 14, 2008 

WASHINGTON — Calling for a new course for the GOP, California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren said Friday that he was running to become the House of Representatives minority leader in the new Congress.

Lungren, 62, said he'd challenge House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, who's come under fire after the House GOP suffered big losses in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

"It is my belief that it is neither in the interest of our party or the advancement of our conservative principles to simply affirm the status quo by acclamation in light of what happened on Nov. 4," Lungren said.

House Republicans could elect their leader as early as next week. If Lungren succeeds, two Californians would be leading their parties in the House. Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi is from San Francisco.

Lungren, who serves on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, Budget and House Administration committees, announced his candidacy in a letter to his House Republican colleagues, asking for their support. He called Boehner "a good man — one of honor and integrity" — and said he'd supported him as minority leader in the past.

"However, I am embarking on this effort because I think our party is in trouble. If we don't admit our difficulties and address them aggressively, we not only run the risk of becoming a permanent congressional minority, but we will do a disservice to our nation," Lungren wrote.

Lungren said he decided to run after discussions with several House Republicans and after he concluded that "the American people are tired of the way Congress has conducted its business on their behalf."

"It is unfortunate that perception is reality," he said. "The selection of our leadership will reflect the initial reaction of House Republicans to the recent verdict of the American people. . . . It is for this reason that a new course must be taken. This Congress, more than any other in the past eight years, is where Republicans need to come together as a party, decide where we are headed and regain our position as stewards of the public's trust."

Considered affable and candid by his colleagues, Lungren prides himself on his conservative voting record. He received a zero rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action last year.

In an interview earlier this fall, Lungen blamed his party's "spotty performance" on overspending and arrogance. He criticized President George W. Bush for leading the party on a spending binge and said Republican leaders became preoccupied with power after they took control of Congress in 1994. He said the party must return to a party of ideas, as it was during the days of Ronald Reagan, his mentor.

Lungren served five terms from a Southern California district before he left Washington in 1989 when California Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him state treasurer. After the state Senate didn't confirm him, Lungren ran for attorney general in 1990 and won, serving two terms. In 1998, he ran for governor but lost to Democrat Gray Davis. He was re-elected to Congress, this time from a Northern California district, in 2004.

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