Rep. Riggs To Run For Senate
By Alan Greenblatt, CQ Staff Writer
California Republican Frank Riggs has told friends and supporters in his
home state that he will give up his House seat to run for the Senate.
He is expected to make an official announcement the week of Jan. 19.
Riggs, in his third term representing the North Coast's 1st District,
would have faced a difficult re-election challenge from Democratic state
Sen. Mike Thompson.
Republicans have been frustrated in their efforts to recruit a
top-flight challenger against first-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who
represented the Bay Area 6th District immediately south of Riggs' before
winning her Senate seat in 1992.
The Republican field shrank significantly Jan. 8, when San Diego Mayor
Susan Golding abandoned the contest, citing a lack of funds.
Riggs will join the two remaining GOP hopefuls, state Treasurer Matt
Fong and car-alarm magnate Darrell Issa. Fong has a substantial lead in
opinion polls, but Issa has indicated he will draw upon his personal
millions to finance his campaign.
Riggs earned a spate of publicity in October when he defended Humboldt
County sheriff's deputies who swabbed pepper spray onto the eyes of several
environmental protesters demonstrating in his district office. All were
The incident was videotaped, and footage was used in a television ad
the Sierra Club was running against Riggs in his district.
"I don't know how more patient or more humane the police could have
handled this incident," Riggs declared on national television. He appeared
on several network programs to defend the officers and condemn the
Riggs is philosophically in step with the timber companies and ranchers
that are key employers in his district, but he has also backed an increase
in the minimum wage and broke with the House GOP leadership to support
transit workers' bargaining rights.
First elected to the House in 1990, Riggs was one of the "Gang of
Seven" freshmen who defied leadership over the House bank. Unseated by
Democrat Dan Hamburg in 1992, Riggs regained his seat in a rematch in
Riggs won re-election in 1996 with 50 percent of the vote, despite a
double-digit Democratic edge in registration in the district. (President
Clinton carried the 1st District in 1996 by 13 percentage points.)
Thompson becomes the presumptive favorite to pick up the seat, which
would be changing party hands for the fourth time in this decade. Riggs'
decision was likely to send local Republicans scrambling to find a champion
in a part of the state where their reserves are not deep.
© 1998 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.