Republican Dreier May Take on Boxer for California Seat

Article excerpt

Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Rep. David Dreier, the man leading California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team, may next be tapped to try to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer next year, Republican strategists say.

Mr. Dreier's statewide visibility rose when he took the high-profile role of co-chairman of Mr. Schwarzenegger's successful campaign to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

Now, Mr. Dreier is on a short list of possible candidates to oust Mrs. Boxer, an unpopular Democrat among Senate Republicans. She was elected to the Senate in 1992 and is up for re-election next year.

Some have said that any Republican who mounts a successful campaign to keep her from a third term would be hailed as a hero in the GOP.

"Schwarzenegger and Dreier are running the Republican Party in California now," conservative strategist Grover Norquist said.

Before Mr. Schwarzenegger burst on the political scene, Mr. Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, was already was a rising star in Congress. But the 11-term congressman from the San Gabriel Valley was little-known outside his own district.

Fellow Republicans say Mr. Dreier, 51, is now in good position to challenge Mrs. Boxer or to bide his time for further House leadership promotions. Or he could run for governor after Mr. Schwarzenegger leaves office.

"David is very powerful and influential in the House and could run for governor or be in line for the speakership if he sticks around till [Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert leaves - though he probably would have to go up against [House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative California Republican.

Consultant Allan Hoffenblum said Mr. Dreier "certainly has increased his influence in state politics - prior to this I don't think he really had influence. He has always been gun-shy about running statewide."

But Mr. Hoffenblum added that Mr. Dreier's war chest is more than $2 million, and "now has a significantly broader power base within the Republican Party."

As Schwarzenegger co-chairman, Mr. Dreier was chief ambassador to conservative voters wary of Mr. Schwarzenegger's social liberalism and sometimes contradictory economic views. …