California: Forty-Eighth District|
Rep. Ronald C. Packard (R)
Last Updated October 18, 2000
The California coast between Los Angeles and San Diego has never entirely filled up with development and never will as long as the Marine Corps retains custody of Camp Pendleton, the giant training base just south of the Orange-San Diego County line. But on both sides of Pendleton up and down the coast and for miles inland on the pleasant hills and in sunny valleys, there has been tremendous growth over the past two decades. Little wonder: This area has perhaps the most agreeable climate in the continental United States, beautiful scenery, the physical infrastructure typical of California and much lower crime rates than Los Angeles or even San Diego. A quarter century ago, this was largely empty territory--never fertile enough to produce a large farm community, never endowed with much manufacturing, never actively promoted as a retirement community. In 1990 there were half a million people just north and south of Pendleton, and the Interior Department was struggling to come up with a district plan that would protect the ecosystem of the 4-inch gnat-catcher bird and other endangered species in the area.
The 48th Congressional District occupies the southernmost portion of Orange County, the North County part of San Diego County and a small slice of Riverside County, the instant town of Temecula. It includes the seaside communities of San Clemente, where Richard Nixon lived just after leaving the White House, and San Juan Capistrano, to which the swallows famously return every year. Inland, there are the newer condominium communities of Mission Viejo and Laguna Niguel; just south of Pendleton in San Diego County are Oceanside and Vista. Farther inland amid the hills are Fallbrook and, in Riverside County, Temecula, in the mid-1980s a corner-grocery town serving a vineyard district, now the center of an area with 100,000 people, mostly commuters to Orange County and Riverside attracted by low-priced homes and traditional values. People in all these areas tend to be Republicans; they are affluent enough to identify with the party of property, conventional enough in their personal lives to identify with what describes itself as the party of traditional values, undivided enough by ethnic differences to identify with the party that fancies it is made up of an unethnic majority.
The congressman from the 48th, Ron Packard, is a Republican who first won when a new district was created for this area in 1982. Packard is a Mormon from Idaho, a dentist who served in the Navy Dental Corps in Camp Pendleton in the 1950s, then moved his growing family (now 7 children and 34 grandchildren and two great-grandchilden) to Carlsbad. There he served on the school board, the Chamber of Commerce and city council, was a director of the North County Transit District and mayor: one of the people who keeps things working in these growing communities. He was mayor of Carlsbad in 1982 when he ran for Congress in the new district, losing an 18-candidate Republican primary by 92 votes to Johnnie Crean, who spent his own money on ads fraudulently claiming President Reagan's endorsement. Packard promptly ran as a write-in and won with 37%, to 32% for the Democrat and 31% for Crean. He has been easily re-elected since; Democrats failed to nominate an opponent in 1998.
In the minority, Packard was a conservative backbencher; but since 1994 he has been chairmen of three Appropriations subcommittees. The first was Legislative Branch, which cut spending on Congress by 9% and would have cut more but for resistance by the Senate. He spurred privatization of services by the Architect of the Capitol and worked to create a ''cyber-Congress'' with up-to-date computer systems in all offices; the latter created pressure for more spending. In 1997 Packard switched to chair the Military Construction Subcommittee, on which he set his first priority on improving base housing, including at Camp Pendleton. But chairing that subcommittee also gave Packard the opportunity to receive specific requests from more than half of the 435 House members seeking construction projects for their district. ''It doesn't satisfy my ego to have a lot of people come and seek the things I have to give,'' he said. ''But I do enjoy being able to determine what programs are worthy of funding. I've waited a long time for that.'' Then, in 1999, he moved a step further up the Appropriations ladder to become chairman of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, an especially auspicious panel for a southern Californian; as Packard said, water is ''the lifeblood of the state.'' The subcommittee's $21 billion annual budget also includes the Energy Department's nuclear programs.
In each case, Packard benefited from his close friendship with Bob Livingston, who chaired Appropriations for four years. So it was no surprise that Packard reciprocated their friendship by spending much of 1998 as campaign manager for Livingston's unconventional bid for a speaker's post that was not yet vacant. But Packard's nine months of work unexpectedly bore fruit when Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his resignation three days after the November 1998 election, and Livingston quickly showed that he had locked up the succession. Suddenly Packard was one of the most important members of the House, which Livingston reinforced by naming his ''trusted friend'' as co-chair of his transition team. Packard had become in political parlance the speaker-designate's ''go-to guy,'' a nice slice of political power; he quickly sent out the message that the new speaker would be far more inclusive, far less partisan than the exiting Gingrich. But, alas, what blossomed so quickly faded to a nightmare for his allies, with Livingston's stunning December 19 resignation announcement. Still, Packard kept his new Energy and Water chairmanship; his collegial style should play well in Denny Hastert's narrowly-divided House.
On local issues, he has crusaded against illegal immigration. He responded to what he considered an egregious case of an illegal alien receiving $12,000 in federal funds to leave her previous home, which was becoming a federal housing project. Packard won enactment of a bill to ban that.
Safe. Packard is a sure bet in this overwhelmingly Republican district. He can have this seat as long as he wants it.
Update: October 18, 2000
Ron Packard on November 3, 1999, announced he would retire at the end of his ninth term to spend more time with his family, his 34 grandchildren in particular. Packard, who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on water and energy, was known for using his post to address local concerns such as sand replenishment for North County beaches. But Packard made a greater impression on his House colleagues through his efforts to cut federal spending, setting an example for Republicans to follow when they won control of Congress in 1994. ''I didn't really dream I would live long enough to see us reverse that trend,'' he said.
This is a solid Republican district and Packard's pending departure set up a ferocious primary battle. Just two days after his retirement announcement, state Senator Bill Morrow became the first Republican to declare his candidacy. Car-alarm entrepreneur Darrell Issa, who has an estimated personal fortune of $200 million and spent $12 million in an unsuccessful campaign for Senate in 1998, quickly followed him. Many observers were expecting former Congressman Bob Dornan--who in September had threatened his former ally, Dana Rohrabacher, with a primary challenge in the nearby 45th District--to run here, but in December Dornan's son Mark instead announced for the seat. The elder Dornan, who some believed had a strong chance to win, said he had ''passed the torch'' to his son to concentrate on his new radio show. Another seven candidates rounded out the Republican field.
On the issues, Morrow, who served six years in the California Assembly before winning a state Senate seat in 1998, and Issa, who co-chaired the 1996 campaign to pass Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in the private sector, had similar conservative views. The primary instead was dominated by personal attacks. Morrow circulated a Los Angeles Times story from 1998 that questioned Issa's business ethics and practices that Issa said was without merit. Issa lifted a partial quote by Morrow from the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding legislative pay raises that Morrow said was taken out of context. In the final week of the campaign, Morrow circulated another story that said Issa had received poor ratings when he served in the Army; Issa released his military evaluations, which showed the highest possible ratings. Finally, Issa sent a last-minute mailer linking Morrow to former state Senator Frank Hill, who went to a federal prison for extortion; Morrow responded by suing Issa.
Issa loaned his campaign more than $1.5 million and spent more than $820,000; Morrow spent just more than $180,000. Dornan, who was new to the district, was not a factor, raising less than $10,000. Issa won the Republican line with 46%, over Morrow's 30%. Dornan finished a distant third with 7%. On the Democratic side, retired Marine officer Peter Kouvelis defeated mortgage banker Richard Maguire, 60%-40%. But the two accounted for only 18% of the overall primary vote, and Issa should easily win in November.
- Pop. 1990: 573,211
- 10.9% rural;
11% age 65+;
- 83.3% White,
1.1% Amer. Indian,
16.9% Hispanic origin;
62.1% married couple families;
30.4% married couple fams. w. children;
65% college educ.;
median household income: $42,389;
per capita income: $19,435;
median gross rent: $646;
median house value: $237,300.
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