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Calif. Assembly Musters Votes To Block Honig Successor

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Democrats in the California Assembly last week were on the verge of defeating the nomination of Sen. Marian Bergeson to fill out the term of Bill Honig, the ousted superintendent of public instruction.

A 41-to-34 vote Thursday largely followed party lines, as did an 8-to-6 vote earlier last week by a committee formed to consider her nomination.

Assembly leaders said last week that a final vote would be taken Monday. But the fact that a majority of the 80-member chamber has already gone on record against the nomination appeared to seal its fate.

A key turning point in maneuvering over the nomination was the announcement a few days before the committee vote that the powerful California Teachers Association would oppose Ms. Bergeson. Although other education organizations had earlier criticized the appointment, the teachers' union at first had remained neutral.

But C.T.A. officials later said a review of her record and an interview had "persuaded us she would not be a sufficiently strong advocate for public education.''

Senator Bergeson, a Republican and former teacher and school board member, had come under fire from Democrats for her vote to suspend Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment that guarantees 40 percent of the state's general-fund revenues to K-14 education.

'A Tragedy for the Children'

Many Democrats were also reluctant to grant the post to a Republican because of what they saw as the political nature of the ouster of Mr. Honig, an outspoken Democrat. He was removed from office after being successfully prosecuted by Republican state officials on felony conflict-of-interest charges. (See Education Week, March 3, 1993.)

After last week's vote, Senator Bergeson acknowledged that the post was out of her grasp.

Ms. Bergeson stressed the importance of finding a full-time leader for the department, however, and warned that Democratic lawmakers might try to thwart any Republican nominated by Gov. Pete Wilson.

"I am saddened and disappointed by today's decision, not so much for my own sake, but because it is such a tragedy for the children in California,'' Ms. Bergeson said.

"It is imperative that we have a leader in this office for the next 20 months,'' she continued. "The next two budgets are too important to leave up to staff at the department, and the legislature represents too many interests to focus all of their attention on California's public school children.''

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