Saying no to Washington

It is increasingly difficult to persuade good people to seek a seat in Congress. The chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, Richard Lugar, is aghast at this dangerous trend. He's been trying to talk the ''best and the brightest'' into running for the Senate.

''I'm surprised,'' Lugar told reporters, ''that so many people are reluctant to even consider the option. . . .''

''We've tried on for size just about everybody in every state who had the slightest gleam of interest,'' he said. ''I've talked to at least 50 people in the country, all of whom are very qualified to run.''

The reluctance occurs because ''they are not sure they are going to win,'' Lugar says. ''And they'd rather not spend two years of their lives and several million dollars in what they feel is a futile pursuit.''

''But, more than that, not everyone in this country finds service in the Senate to be such an overwhelming opportunity. . . . A lot of people find other careers equally attractive. And some, given the obstacles of getting there, don't find the Senate very attractive at all.''

Political leaders here are confirming the trend of disinclinations to join the House and Senate. One chieftain said, ''I guess it's because the public has such a low regard for Congress these days.''

Frank Fahrenkopf, GOP national chairman, is also finding unwillingness of good people to become candidates, in state and local races as well.

The recruiting problem is not confined to the Republican Party. Democrats report increasing difficulty in persuading top people to give up good jobs, uproot their families, and move to Washington for what many see as a rather thankless job.

The problem is more acute with Republicans since they depend on the business community for supplying their candidates. The Democrats traditionally tap the academic community, labor circles, and the leaders of minority groups, where reluctance to run for Congress has always been considerably less than among big-salaried business people.

Senator Lugar, who leaped from Indiana boy wonder as mayor of Indianapolis to national prominence in his present Senate seat, says he is able to offer special inducements in his recruiting effort - but to little avail.

The GOP Senatorial Campaign Committee for the first time can tell candidates they will get the maximum amount of money the Federal Election Commission will allow and all sorts of backup help that no previous committee has ever been able to offer.

''But even in the face of this,'' Lugar said, ''people are reluctant.''

Lugar understands full well what this trend, if it continues, could portend: a Congress that, in terms of the quality of personnel, will certainly get no better - and could possibly decline.

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