Leo T. McCarthy
Leo T. McCarthy
|43rd Lieutenant Governor of California|
January 3, 1983 – January 2, 1995
|Governor||George Deukmejian |
|Preceded by||Mike Curb|
|Succeeded by||Gray Davis|
|57th Speaker of the California State Assembly|
|Preceded by||Bob Moretti|
|Succeeded by||Willie Lewis Brown, Jr.,|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 18th district
December 2, 1974 - November 30, 1982
|Preceded by||Willie Brown|
|Succeeded by||Alister McAlister|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 19th district
January 6, 1969 - November 30, 1974
|Preceded by||Charlie Meyers|
|Succeeded by||Lou Papan|
|Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors|
Leo Tarcissus McCarthy
August 15, 1930
Auckland, New Zealand
|Died||February 5, 2007 (aged 76)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, California|
|Spouse(s)||Jacqueline Lee Burke|
|Education||University of San Francisco (BA)|
San Francisco Law School (JD)
|Branch/service||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1951–1952|
Early life and education
McCarthy, whose parents were both natives of Tralee, Ireland, was himself born in Auckland, New Zealand, but emigrated to the United States with his parents Daniel and Nora McCarthy, and siblings when he was three years old. The McCarthy family sailed from the Port of Wellington, New Zealand on the Royal Mail Ship Mazurka, which arrived at the Port of San Francisco, California, on February 9, 1934. He went to elementary school at Mission Dolores. He then went to high school at St. Ignatius College Preparatory. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of San Francisco and a law degree from San Francisco Law School, now integrated to Alliant International University.
McCarthy joined the United States Air Force in March 1951 and served for twenty-one months until end of 1952 as an enlisted man. He was in an intelligence unit at the Strategic Air Command and was stationed at Lake Charles, Louisiana for seventeen months. While at the Strategic Air Command, he spent a few weeks deployed to Saudi Arabia taking part in a mission to simulate the start of World War III. He also served in the United States Air Force Reserves for a few years.
In 1958, the year that saw the Democrats capture statewide offices for the first time since World War II, McCarthy managed the successful campaign for State Senate of J. Eugene McAteer. After the election, served as McAteer's administrative assistant.
McCarthy first ran for office in 1963 when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He served there until 1967. In 1968, he was elected to the State Assembly, serving as speaker of the Assembly from 1974 to 1980. (Art Agnos, elected mayor of San Francisco in 1988, had his political start as McCarthy's first legislative assistant, and later as the speaker's chief of staff.) As speaker, McCarthy earned a reputation as a partisan, take-no-prisoners insider in Democratic Party politics.
McCarthy unexpectedly lost the speakership to Willie Brown in 1980. McCarthy had been facing a stiff challenge from Howard Berman. Seeing his fellow Democrats so divided, Brown worked with Republicans to gain the speakership. Both of the losers in this struggle soon left the legislature. Berman ran for Congress and McCarthy ran for statewide office.
Lieutenant governor of California
McCarthy was first elected to statewide office to the first of three consecutive four-year terms as lieutenant governor of California in 1982, at the same time that Republican George Deukmejian was elected governor. In 1986, the incumbent McCarthy ran against Republican Mike Curb, a former film producer and music promoter with a reputation for opposing drug use by artists. In a hotly-contested race for lieutenant governor that centered largely around violent crime and drug policy, McCarthy alleged that Curb made a fortune in making 'exploitation films' that glorified drugs, sex, and violence. Curb was so incensed at the charges that he filed a $7-million libel and slander suit against McCarthy, who ultimately won the election.
After his failed 1988 Senate campaign, McCarthy won a third term as lieutenant governor in 1990, while his 1988 opponent Pete Wilson won the election for governor.
1988 U.S. Senate campaign
In 1988, McCarthy ran for the U.S. Senate. He easily won the Democratic Party nomination but was defeated in the general election by the Republican incumbent Pete Wilson. As of 2021, this was the last time a Republican won a U.S. Senate seat in California. McCarthy's 4,287,253 votes set a record for the most votes given to a losing Democratic Senate candidate that lasted until it was broken by MJ Hegar of Texas in 2020. McCarthy is the first person ever to get 4 million votes in a losing Senate campaign.
1992 U.S. Senate campaign
McCarthy retired from public office at the end of his third term as lieutenant governor on January 2, 1995, having been prohibited from seeking re-election to a fourth term in office because of state term limits. He was succeeded by fellow Democratic then-State Controller and future Governor Gray Davis. McCarthy's 12 years are the longest any California lieutenant governor has served. Upon leaving politics, he created an investment company, The Daniel Group, named for his father and located in San Francisco.
Leo T. McCarthy Center
He helped found the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco.
McCarthy was married on December 17, 1955, to the former Jacqueline Lee Burke. They had four children (Sharon, Conna, Adam, and Niall) and eleven grandchildren.
After a long illness, McCarthy died from a kidney ailment at his home in San Francisco on February 5, 2007.
- Online archive of California
- Leo T. McCarthy: 1930–2007
- Candidate Bio
- Leo T. McCarthy, Oral History Interview, California State Archives, 1995–1996
- Leo T. McCarthy, Oral History Interview, California State Archives, 1995–1996, Page 11
- Balzar, John, "Leo McCarthy, 76; Democrat served as lieutenant governor, Assembly speaker", Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2007
- Shuitt, Douglas, "California Elections: Curb, McCarthy – Vying to Become the Toughest Cop?", Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1986
- "Curb Files $7-Million Suit Against McCarthy", Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1986
- Reinhold, Robert (June 3, 1992). "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: California; 2 Women Win Nomination In California Senate Races". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Leo McCarthy dead at 76, sfgate.com; accessed February 26, 2017.