Former Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey said Friday he will run for Congress again to challenge conservative Congressman Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), the Los Angeles Times reported.
"You could call this a battle for the soul of the Republican Party," he told the Times of his bid in the June 6 primary election.
"This is no Republican Party I recognize today," he was quoted as saying. He said he wouldn't have run except he couldn't find anyone else to challenge Pombo, a 45-year-old cattle rancher who chairs the House Resources Committee.
McCloskey told the Times he "didn't have clue" whether he could win, but would "debate critical issues."
McCloskey, a blunt-spoken moderate Republican who became known as a maverick when he opposed the Vietnam War in the 1970s, also helped write the federal Endangered Species Act, of which Pombo is a leading critic.
He said he also is concerned about corruption and lobbying practices in Washington today, and said he would call for a return to traditional Republican values of honesty and fiscal integrity.
McCloskey, 78, told the Times that he will formally announce his candidacy Monday in a restaurant in Lodi. He served in Congress from 1967 to 1983, representing the Palo Alto area and had resided in Portola Valley for many years after he retired from politics. In recent years, he has raised horses, olives and oranges on his retirement ranch in Yolo County.
In 1982, he was defeated by Pete Wilson, who later became governor, in a primary bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
He became known nationally when he ran against President Richard Nixon in the primary election. He wrote the 1972 book, "Truth and Untruth: Political Deceit in America," a direct challenge to Nixon Administration policies.
McCloskey challenged Pombo to a dozen debates in the Central Valley district.
Pombo could not be reached, but a longtime campaign consultant, Wayne Johnson, dismissed his campaign and said McCloskey was a "stalking horse for the Democratic Party" who endorsed John Kerry for president.
"This guy was never close to the mainstream of the Republican Party and he is even farther away now," Johnson was quoted as saying by the Times. "We are not going to debate Pete McCloskey. We don't consider him a serious candidate or a serious Republican."
McCloskey's environmental ties run deep. During his eight terms in Congress, in addition to working on the Environmental Protection Act, he served as Republican co-chair of the
first Earth Day in 1970. He also worked to save whales, the private land-conservancy movement, and other environmental issues.
"About everything I have been connected with since 1970, this guy would like to roll back," McCloskey told the Times of Pombo.
In the early 1960s, McCloskey helped with legal work relating to the formation of the Palo Alto-based Committee for Green Foothills, working with the late Lois Hogle, Ruth Spangenberg and others.
He said he has rented a studio apartment in Lodi and will be looking for a home there.
McCloskey conceded that he knows few people in the sprawling district and has raised no money so far, but considers the challenge a "worthy cause" that is worth fighting for.