State Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, defeated Nov. 6 in his run for Congress, says he plans to remain active in Inland Empire affairs while making a switch from the public to private sector.

Rep. Gary Miller, a fellow Republican, was the victor in the race to represent the new 31st Congressional District.

The race took place under new California law that allowed members of the same party to run against each other during the general election if they are the top two voter-getters in a primary.

The fortunes of Election Day may mean a return to the real estate industry, said Dutton, who founded Dutton and Associates as a real investment management firm before he had an office at the State Capitol.

Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said he did not have an active role with company in order to avoid appearances of conflict during the past decade he spent in Sacramento.

"What I'm focusing on right now is really taking care of things at home," he said. "For the last 10 years, my wife has really carried the burden."

"Cleaning the garage is definitely on the list," he added.

Miller, R-Brea, meanwhile, has another term in Congress to consider.

In a post-election interview, Miller said he and other House Republicans are immediately concerned with finding a solution to the "fiscal cliff" problem that does not include taxes or defense cuts.

"We can't postpone that. It has to be dealt with now," Miller said in a Nov. 8 interview.

The term "fiscal cliff" refers to a package of sweeping automatic budget cuts and tax hikes set to go into effect with the new year. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress fails to achieve a more balanced deficit reduction plan, the country could experience a new recession in early 2013.

Although Dutton has campaign committees that would allow him to run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, he said he has no plans to run if it would mean competing against the incumbent in his district, Janice Rutherford.

"Janice was very supportive of me. I wouldn't want to run against her," he said.

As he contemplates a return to private business, Dutton said he now has a "lukewarm" relationship with the state Republican Party.

The state GOP endorsed Miller, who already had a seat in the House of Representatives. Dutton wasn't disappointed too much that his party endorsed his opponent, but took exception to the California Republican Party's decision to send negative ads that attacked his record in Sacramento.

"I certainly wouldn't have done a hit piece," Dutton said.

The state Republican Party sent mail ads accusing Dutton of being a wasteful spender for having agreed to several state budget plans that were negotiated during his years in Sacramento.

Before the campaign ended, California GOP Chairman Thomas del Beccaro told Dutton those mailers did not express the views of the full state party leadership.

Aside from that episode of Republican-versus-Republican conflict, the Dutton vs. Miller race was also a competition between geography and money. A lot of money.

Dutton's campaign sought to leverage the name recognition obtained during his years on the Rancho Cucamonga City Council and a state legislator from the Inland Empire.

The new 31st Congressional District stretches from Upland to Redlands areas and is similar to the district Dutton represents in the state Senate.

Miller previously represented an area that included the Chino Valley as well as parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Redistricting led Miller to move to Rancho Cucamonga and run in the 31st District.

If Dutton had more name recognition than Miller in the 31st District at the start of the campaign, millions in outside spending just about ensured any voter who had a mail box or television knew Miller's name by Election Day.

Miller's campaign spent $1.3 million to the roughly $294,000 Dutton's campaign spent during the primary and general cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Outside interests, especially affiliates of the National Association of Realtors, spent nearly $2.6 million in support of Miller.

The outside spenders who backed Dutton spent nearly $95,000. 

"I was impressed that they spent so much money trying to beat me," Dutton said.

The numbers on their own are not enough to prove that ads alone were the reason Miller won.

"While we know the winners and losers, we're not sure which strategies worked best. The Dutton-Miller race will be one that will be closely studied," said Douglas Johnson, a fellow of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Dutton was Rancho Cucamonga councilman before being elected to the Assembly in 2002. He moved up to the state Senate two years later.

Dutton and Gov. Jerry Brown had a stand-off in 2011 when the Dutton led state Senate Republicans who objected to the governor's plans for a special election on new taxes.

Republicans won last year's tax battle, but Brown won this year as voters passed Proposition 30, which increases sales taxes and income taxes for higher earners.

The state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported in its latest budget projection that Proposition 30 revenues will be a key factor in solving California's budget problems.

The LAO predicted the state may actually have budget surpluses after the 2013-14 fiscal year, but Dutton said he was skeptical that the Democrats who control the Legislature will avoid the temptation to overspend.

"They'll just have all these new projects and things they keep doing," he said. "And encouraging people to be dependent on government, in my opinion."

Dutton also said, however, that some of his proudest moments in the Legislature include bills he worked on with Democrats.

These included the bill he worked on with Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg to protect small business owners from abusive lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as negotiating with Democrats to obtain transportation bond money for the Inland Empire.

Dutton also mentioned the 2005 "Safe Surrendered Baby Law" he authored that allows distressed mothers to leave an infant at a hospital, fire station or some other places 72 hours after the baby's birth and avoid prosecution.

Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Chuck Buquet said he appreciated that after Dutton went to Sacramento, he maintained contact with city officials across his district.

"He stayed very connected with the cities that he represented," Buquet said.

Councilwoman Diane Williams also had complimentary words for Dutton.

Williams said Dutton's real estate experience often helped her and other council members deal with developers who often had problems with city regulations.

"He's a true professional," she said. "I hate like the Dickens that he's leaving public office."


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