McCloskey: too liberal for Hayakawa's Senate seat?; California congressman outlines views on defense, economy, Mideast
If Rep. Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey wins the California Republican nomination for the US Senate this year, he says he will not underestimate his most likely opponent in the November election -- Democratic Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.Skip to next paragraph
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And, he says, he has no doubt that the winner of the GOP primary in June will have massive backing from the White House and the party's national campaign apparatus during the general election campaign.
In a recent interview, the 15-year US House veteran from Menlo Park told the Monitor:
''The interesting thing about this race is that 95 percent of the Republicans I'm running into don't care about the ideological positions, they care about who can beat Jerry Brown. The fear of Brown goes from the White House down to the lowest level (among Republicans) in this state. . . .
''I think that Jerry Brown is vulnerable, but he is extremely resilient. The only way he's going to be beaten is point-by-point, specific cross-examination in debate where he's not allowed to drift off into the mists of philosophy and metaphysics.''
Among the seven or eight Republicans vying for a chance to run for the Senate seat held by incumbent Republican S.I. Hayakawa, McCloskey says he feels certain he is not the White House favorite. He concedes that distinction to San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. But McCloskey says the ''White House is unlikely to get into the primary unless it appears somebody might win who can't defeat Brown in the general election.'' That is generally conceded to be the reason why Washington put such strong pressure on Senator Hayakawa not to seek a second term -- pressure to which he finally acceded.
''The last thing they want,'' says McCloskey, ''is an articulate, charismatic Democrat in the Senate - the one man who might be able to marshal anti-Reagan sentiment and tie it together with the same kind of charisma that Reagan himself has. So keeping Brown out of the Senate has got to be their No. 1 priority.''
Pete McCloskey gained national prominence in the late 1960s and early '70s, first as a critic of America's Vietnam policy and later when he demonstrated his opposition to President Nixon by symbolically challenging him for the Reublican nomination in 1972. A US Marine Corps veteran who served in Korea, McCloskey uses the term ''moderate'' in describing his Republicanism. But he shuns ideology and insists on talking about specific issues. Expressing his convictions, no matter who might be offended, he admits to having placed himself the wrong side of most special interest groups at one time or another.
The latest California Poll (taken in Januray) on the GOP Senate race shows Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. -- with Hayakawa out of the race -- preferred by 34 percent of those polled, a 16 point lead over both McCloskey and Wilson, who are tied at 18 percent. Maureen Reagan is fourth with 9 percent. Most of McCloskey's strength is centered in the San Francisco Bay Area. He admits he has to increase his recognition and support in populous southern California.
''I'm trying to build a grass-roots organization in 58 counties and 422 cities,'' he says. ''And if we can get a grass-roots Republican organization statewide, then I have a chance to win. I can't win it on ideology and I can't win it on support of Republican kingmakers. I will never get that.''
While McCloskey basically agrees with President Reagan's approach to domestic and foreign affairs, he enunciates clear differences with the President on many issues -- Mexican immigration, defense policy, the Mideast, and Central America, among others.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
Most of the candidates in the Republican primary seem to be running against Brown, not each other. What's your approach?
I've just invited each of my opponents to a series of six head-to-head debates. Thus far Pete Wilson has declined to debate. Barry Goldwater wants to have nothing to do with debates. (Subsequent to this interview, Wilson responded to the challenge with a counterproposal for ''three or four debates involving all candidates shown by the California Poll to have a following of 15 percent or more of the Republican electorate.'') The only one to agree is Ted Bruinsma (Theodore Bruinsma, former head of the Loyola University law school in Los Angeles and a very dark horse in the GOP race) because he's got zero name recognition and feels it would help.