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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 women.

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 protesters.

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 1994.

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.
In CQ News This Week

Saturday Jan. 17, 1998

A Bundle From Virginia
House GOP Casts a Wide Net In Renewed Scandal Hunt
Rainy Days Get No Respect As Savings Rate Droops
Rep. Riggs To Run For Senate
Special Race in New York's 6th To Feature Dueling Democrats
Another Costly Run May Prove Too High a Price for Feinstein
Criticism of 'Corporate Welfare' Heats Up in Congress
Departure of Bureau's Director Deepens Census Controversy
California House Race Shapes Up As a Duel of Interest Groups
Political Advocacy Case Reaches High Court





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