Crossing the political border

Is Proposition 187 author and former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy a one-issue candidate or ‘the one guy’ who can unseat Dianne Feinstein?

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 1/26/2006

A minority party candidate faces an uphill battle this November in strong opposition majority territory.

No, it’s not a Democrat trying to regain one of the 21 seats needed to overturn power in Republican-controlled Congress. It’s not a Democratic gubernatorial candidate trying to take back one of the four states needed to overturn the Republican majority.

The San Gabriel Valley’s own former Republican state senator, Richard Mountjoy of Monrovia, has announced he will run against US Sen. Diane Feinstein.

The 73-year-old Mountjoy is no stranger to politics or controversy. As former president of the California Republican Assembly, the state’s largest conservative activist group, Mountjoy was the author of Proposition 187, which was approved by 59 percent of voters in 1994 and would have denied government health care, education and welfare benefits to illegal immigrants.

The initiative was later voided by US District Court Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, who ruled that regulation of immigration is the federal government’s responsibility.

Having spent 10 years in local government and 23 years in the state Legislature, the Monrovia businessman, whose son Dennis has served two terms in the Assembly, was comfortable being back in the private sector. But encouragement from his former colleagues convinced him to give the Senate a shot.

Coming on the heels of the Minute Men protests across Southern California and President Bush’s proposal to give immigrants a temporary work visa, Mountjoy said he plans to once again focus his campaign on the issue of immigration. "I’ve been pushing that one since before it was popular," he told the Weekly.

According to Wikipedia, "It is commonly believed that a repercussion of the campaign for passage of Proposition 187 was the alienation of minority voters in California from the Republican Party."

For his part, Mountjoy does not see anything wrong with his support of these policies, which have been characterized as racist by not only those in the opposition party, but the very people who feel the weight of those actions: Latino immigrants.

"That’s an inflammatory thing. I’m just shocked. Thirty some years in the Legislature … I’ve got a record. Take a look at it," Mountjoy said in a follow-up interview. "I’m not going to respond to inflammatory, outrageous, stupid questions. I don’t do that."

The Golden State hasn’t had Republican senators since Pete Wilson and John Seymour left office in 1992, so the question remains: Is California ready to elect another Republican?

-Justin Chapman

Pasadena Weekly: You said you would drop out of the race if another Republican with deeper pockets chose to run. Do you know if anyone has expressed interest in running against the incumbent?

Richard Mountjoy: Well what I meant by that is, if there was somebody that got in and decided to spend a whole bunch of money on primaries, neither one of us could win, so … that was the reason for that comment, but I’ve already taken out the papers. I’m in the race. I don’t know if anyone’s expressed interest. I have so many grassroots supporters out there, I don’t think anybody is going to get it together and try to beat me in the primary.

What accomplishments during your terms as state Senator are you particularly proud of?

I was the one who got rid of MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether). I was by myself on that issue. After 18 months, we finally got it out of the field, this poison in the water. I was a stand-alone on that one. I’ve done workers’ comp. I was key in workers’ comp reform in the late ’80s.

If elected, what would be your policy on immigration and California’s border with Mexico?

Well, I was the author of Proposition 187, so you know where I’m at on that issue. I’m not a person that just supports an issue; I go out and work for it. Immigration reform is a must, an amnesty. So that’s my position. I’ve been pushing that one since before it was popular. Way back, ’94. Matter of fact, 187 passed and was set aside by Gov. Davis. Illegally set aside, but it was set aside.

When you left the state Legislature in 2000, did you know you wanted to run for another office later on down the line? Were there some things you still wanted to accomplish?

No, actually, I was very comfortable doing the things I like to do. But there were just hundreds of people that sent me emails saying to get in the race. After talking to a lot of my friends in the political arena, they said, "You’re the one guy who can do it." I do have support statewide, so I considered it for awhile, then decided, … Well, why not give it a shot? That’s where we’re at. And the support’s pouring in from the grassroots pretty heavily.

Do you think the governor can make a comeback?

Yeah, I think he will. I don’t think the governor’s in a whole lot of trouble as long as he doesn’t go too far to the left. He’ll be fine, and I think up to now he’s done a pretty decent job. He’s gonna be in the middle. Like I said, you have to sit back and see what he’s going to do in the future, what he does with this year’s budget, how that all comes out. There was a heavy campaign against his propositions and it was just insurmountable. He took on too many dragons at one time. We’ll just have to see how the whole thing plays out.

Sen. Feinstein has been labeled "undefeatable." What do you think it will take to unseat her?

Well, that’s the reason most people believe that I can do it because it’s going to take heavy grassroots support, it’s going to take a lot of Democrat support, and I think I can do that. In my own district I ran like 20 percent ahead on registration almost every time I ran. The Reagan Democrats will come out and support me.

What would be your main priorities if elected?

Immigration reform, of course. Helping the president get his nominations to the Supreme Court through, I think that’s critical. I don’t think we need political activists on the Supreme Court or any other level of court. Support for the president’s program against terrorism. I totally support giving powers to the president to surveil (sic) people. Well, actually it’s through Congress that they do that, but I think the PATRIOT Act needs to be reenacted. I think Mrs. Feinstein and the other Democrats are on the wrong side. I mean, they’re on the side of saying, "Hey, whatever’s bad for America is good for us." That’s the wrong side to be on. I don’t think the American people are that way and I don’t think the Democrats are that way – rank and file Democrats are not there. Rank and file Democrats are very patriotic. They love this country and support the military. Diane Feinstein and her cohorts don’t. It’s as simple as that. And those would be very strong issues with me.