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No Mansion for California Governor

October 15, 1998

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ You get the power and the glory of running the nation’s most populous state and the world’s seventh-largest economy _ but you don’t get a mansion.

Whoever wins California’s closely contested gubernatorial race will have the option of moving into the unofficial governor’s residence: a split-level shaded by eucalyptus and juniper trees in an exclusive Sacramento neighborhood.

The four-bedroom, three-bath house on Lake Wilhaggin Drive does come with a duck pond, a gardener and a security detail in the garage. But it’s basically indistinguishable from every other nice house on the shady street.

And it’s a far cry from the Greek Revival mansion in Austin, Texas, the Georgian-style brick mansion on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pa., or the white-columned, antebellum-style mansion in Montgomery, Ala., that boasts a swimming pool in the shape of Alabama.

California is one of only six states that don’t have governors’ mansions. The other states are Arizona, Idaho, Massachusettes, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who is barred by law from serving a third term, will be moving out of the split-level in January.

Spokesmen for Republican Attorney General Dan Lungren and Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis said the candidates were too busy campaigning to worry about where they would live as governor. But their wives had some thoughts.

``I’d just as soon stay at our house. Home is home,″ said Bobbi Lungren, whose husband has been commuting for eight years to his office near the Capitol from Roseville, 20 miles away. If the Lungrens moved into the Sacramento house, Lungren’s commute would be reduced to eight miles.

Sharon Davis is understandably more interested in the home, since she and her husband live in a condominium in Los Angeles, more than 350 miles from the capital.

However, she’s concerned about the lack of space for formal entertaining since she and her husband, whose campaign has received millions from organized labor, would not be able to entertain at the Hyatt Regency Hotel near the Capitol, where the Wilsons hold their parties.

``It’s a non-union hotel and Democrats don’t have functions at non-union hotels,″ she said.

California governors have had an odd assortment of living arrangements ever since Nancy Reagan declared in 1967 that the 1878 clapboard mansion with gingerbread trim that came with her husband’s new job was a ``noisy firetrap.″ She had a point: The picturesque Victorian is on busy Highway 160.

The mansion has since been turned into a museum.

A group of wealthy supporters of Ronald Reagan instead bought an elegant home for the first couple in one of Sacramento’s best neighborhoods and rented it to the state.

While in office, Reagan commissioned the construction of an eight-bedroom ultra-modern home for his successor.

But that turned out to be Democrat Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian who campaigned on a pledge to bring a ``new spirit″ to state government. He pronounced the Reagan-built mansion a ``Taj Mahal″ and ordered it sold. He spent his eight years in Sacramento in an apartment across the street from the Capitol, sleeping on a box spring and a mattress on the floor.

(Brown’s father, Edmund G. ``Pat″ Brown, had no problem living in the ``noisy firetrap″ when he was governor from 1959 to 1967.)

Jerry Brown’s successor, Republican George Deukmejian, rented a room at a Holiday Inn for a few weeks after his 1983 inauguration, then moved to a small apartment near the Capitol.

Finally, GOP activists took the $400,000 profit from his inaugural ball and other events, formed a nonprofit foundation and bought a house for Deukmejian. That’s where Wilson and his wife, Gayle, now live.

The house, built in 1975, was purchased for $397,000 in 1984 and is probably worth $600,000 or more today. The state has rented it from the foundation for $1 a year and pays to maintain it.

``We wanted something that was appropriate for a governor but was modest,″ said the foundation chairman, Karl Samuelian. If the next governor doesn’t want to live there, it will be sold, Samuelian said.

Mrs. Lungren expressed desire for a more traditional sort of governor’s mansion.

``We need something that exemplifies California history when we entertain heads of state,″ she said. ``That’s important to me. We want to showcase our history and culture.″