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Lungren Reflects On Congressional Career

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(Washington, D.C.)
Friday, January 4, 2013

The last two months have been a strange time for outgoing lawmakers. Lungren lost to Democrat Ami Bera in November but had to remain in Washington to cast votes and pack up decade's worth of memories he was willing to share.  

"In 1979 as a freshmen member of Congress this was my first office. So I have a picture there of my mom and dad when I was - I think it was when I was sworn in."

Lungren began his career as a lawyer. He became a congressman, attorney general of California, and in 2005 he returned to Capitol Hill again as a Congressman. He's proud his public career has spanned four decades.

"So actually I got a piece of the seventies, I got a good portion of the eighties. In the nineties I was attorney general of California for eight years. I came here in the early 2000s and actually made it to the teens barely - 2013."

Part of what drove Lungren back to Congress was the September eleventh terrorist attack in 2001 in which he lost close friends. He was appointed to the new Homeland Security Committee and returned to his old seat on the Judiciary Committee.

But Lungren surprised many by asking for an appointment to the not so glamorous Committee on House Administration. He ended his congressional career as chair of that committee, earning the title of the mayor of Capitol Hill.

Republican Committee Member Gregg Harper of Mississippi has only praise for Lungren's administrative work. 

"There are many thankless tasks that take place, but he's done that extremely well. And if you have someone like Dan do a job as well as he has done it helps all of us. It helps the House functions better and do the job that's necessary. And a lot of times people never know it. But they know it if it doesn't run smoothly."

The Capitol was rapidly transformed in the years following 9-11. Besides the physical security changes, Lungren also helped oversee technological advances to defend against cyber attacks. He says it was vital to maintain the proper balance.

"It's not an easy job to at the same time try and secure the nation's capital while allowing this - or participating and allowing this - to be the most open capital in the world."

Lungren's work as chair of the House Administration Committee has ruffled some feathers. To cut costs he unwound some of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's efforts to green the Capitol. Environmentalists were especially angery when he reintroduced Styrofoam cups on the Hill.

Others were angered by his bill to engrave the words 'In God We Trust' in the new Capitol Visitors Center. Lungren is proud of the bill.  

"Now that may sound like a minor thing, but it was actually controversial in the fact that I ensured that a national emblem which reflects the religious heritage of this country that that is something that every person that visits will see - unless he or she wants to avert their eyes - as they come in, is important to me."

Controversies for Lungren yes. But deviations from his principals, no, according to Chico Republican Wally Herger.

"Dan Lungren is a man of character. A man who really has his value system set up right."

As Lungren moves on, he's also being asked to look back. 

"What do you think is your legacy in Congress and your time in California and how do you want to be remembered?"

"I remember I was asked that in about 1986 by a reporter and I said 'Well, I want to be remembered as a good father and a good husband, and if I can get out of all this activity with that I'll be happy.' And I've striven for that."

Lungren hasn't decided what he'll do next, but he still wants to influence national policy. He just won't be able to do it as a member of Congress.

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