State treasurer to retire in 2014 after 40 years in politics

11:37 AM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer
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Bill Lockyer's name on a ballot is one of the only constants in the modern era of California politics.

Now, after almost 40 years in elective office, the senior statesman says he's stepping aside after his current term as the state's treasurer.

"It's tough to leave a career I have loved," said Lockyer in a prepared statement Monday.  "But it's time to make the break and explore other opportunities."

The Democratic icon's announcement ends an unbroken string of terms in office that dates back to his election as a San Leandro school board member in 1968.  Lockyer then served nine years in the Assembly; 16 years in the state Senate, including four as pro Tem; eight years as attorney general; and now coming up on eight years as treasurer.

While virtually everyone else of his generation ultimately fell victim to term limits, the Bay Area pol skillfully found new positions from which to influence the political and policy debates of the day.

Lockyer had been positioned to once again jump jobs in 2014, angling for state controller even as the incumbent John Chiang positions himself to switch into the job of treasurer.  But the 72-year old Lockyer was facing, for one of the only times, some intraparty competition from up and comers.  Whether it was that, the toll of several years of marital problems and his wife's personal struggles, or just a feeling it was time to move on... remains unclear.

"I don't have any definite plans right now, other than to do my job as treasurer," through the end of next year, his statement said. "But I look forward to starting a new phase of my life."

Lockyer also flirted with the idea of running for governor, and amassed a huge campaign warchest to do so.  He made headlines in late 2003, when he said at a post-election academic conference that he'd broken Democratic ranks and voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the historic 2003 recall.

The Democrat is also forver known as one of the architects of the now famous 1987 political deal over civil liability laws and 'tort reform' sketched out with a sharpie marker on a cloth napkin at Frank Fat's.  The eponymous 'napkin deal' struck with then Assembly speaker Willie Brown and others remains one of the great stories about political wheeling and dealing in Sacramento.

California Democratic Party chair John Burton summed it up well in his emailed statement reacting to the news.  "It will be difficult," he said, "to get used to electoral politics in California without Bill Lockyer."


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