Politics & Government

After last goodbye to late wife, lawmaker will return to final year in Congress

WASHINGTON — Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, now begins the hardest congressional year imaginable.

On Sunday, Radanovich will bid a final public farewell to his late wife, Ethie. He's calling the 1 p.m. memorial service at Sierra Meadows Country Club in Ahwahnee a celebration, honoring the ebullient spirit of the woman he was married to for 14 years.

Then, the California services done, Radanovich and his 11-year-old son, King, will return to the snow-encrusted East Coast. King has school, and Radanovich has work; familiar-sounding commitments now cast anew.

"He's been very positive, and very much focused on moving forward," said Radanovich's chief of staff, Ted Maness.

Still, the old routines are getting unsettled.

Normally a very accessible lawmaker, Radanovich has declined newspaper interview requests since he announced his retirement Dec. 29. At this point, Maness said, Radanovich wants the last memorial service out of the way before he talks to reporters.

Within Radanovich's congressional office, staffers are re-evaluating their own career options. Three already have left in recent weeks, and other resumes are being polished.

Fresno State graduate Tricia Geringer, an attorney who first joined Radanovich's staff in 1995, left Feb. 1 to join the Sacramento-based Agricultural Council of California. Radanovich's legislative director for the past four years, attorney Christopher Herndon, this week joined a Senate committee staff. Spencer Pederson, an Inyo County native who worked for Radanovich for more than four years, left his press secretary position for the House Natural Resources Committee.

"People are starting to trickle out," Pederson said Thursday, adding that his own departure was both "difficult" and "a good career move."

Having announced his pending departure following 15 years of congressional service, Radanovich faces the other potential problems associated with being considered a lame duck. Being a short-timer complicates staff recruitment and chit-trading with colleagues.

Radanovich plans in his final year to keep his focus on San Joaquin Valley water delivery issues, as well a pending Yosemite National Park land issue, Maness said.

Inevitably, with any congressional retirement, increasing attention also gets paid to the candidates who hope to replace the incumbent.

Radanovich as well as Rep. David Dreier of San Dimas, a Republican colleague who will speak at the Sunday service, are backing state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced. Former Tracy-area congressman Richard Pombo has the backing of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, among others.

Radanovich can help Denham in several ways.

Radanovich's campaign treasury had $192,558 available as of Dec. 31. Radanovich can contribute a small portion of this directly to Denham, as well as larger amounts to state and federal Republican campaign committees. Radanovich's longtime political consultant, Carlos Rodriguez, is now doing similar work for Denham.

Within the sometimes fraternal, sometimes fratricidal confines of Congress, Radanovich is now in a position to give support as well as receive it.

Rep. Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who entered the House in 1995 along with Radanovich and who sits next to him on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is likewise retiring following the revelation that his wife has what Buyer termed a terminal illness.

Friends like former Rep. David McIntosh of Indiana, who also was a member of Radanovich's freshman House class, and McIntosh's wife, Ruthie, have been helping out at Radanovich's Alexandria, Va., home. Some additional help may continue as Radanovich returns to the often-unpredictable work schedule of a congressman.

Radanovich has not yet said officially where he expects to live after he leaves office, though he will be bringing his son with him on trips back to the congressional district.

"He wants King to grow up as a California kid," Maness said.