Opinion: Long Weekend Ahead For Lungren

Veteran California congressman may be next GOP casualty

Election night isn't over for Dan Lungren.

One of California's best-known politicians, the veteran Republican congressman ended Tuesday night trailing his Democratic challenger, Ami Bera, by less than 200 votes.

By Friday, that margin had widened, in Bera's favor, to almost 1,800 votes.  That means a long and painful weekend ahead as Lungren awaits the counting of thousands of absentee ballots that will, if the pattern holds, force his retirement.

It's a race that ranked this year as one of the most expensive and closely-watched in the nation. Both national parties poured millions into the campaign for the newly-drawn 7th District.

Lungren is a special case, as one of California's best-known politicians. His father was President Nixon's personal physician.  First elected to a Long Beach congressional district in 1978, Lungren held that seat for a decade.  He was  California Attorney-General for eight years. And he's held his Northern California house seat since 2002.

But he's no stranger to high-profile losses, either.  Lungren was appointed to fill the unexpired term of State Treasurer Jess Unruh after Unruh's death, but failed to win confirmation from the State Senate.  He ran for governor in 1998 and was beaten soundly by Gray Davis.

Still, waiting for days of ballot-counting is a torturous experience, no matter how many years you've been in office.  Lungren is on the way out, unless there's a sudden change in the numbers. It would be a huge Republican loss, in a year full of them.

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