George Courken Deukmejian


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(b. Menands, New York, 6 June 1928)

US; Governor of California 1983–91 An Armenian whose father was an oriental rug dealer, Deukmejian gained his education by working his way through Siena College, New York, and St John's College, Brooklyn, where he studied law. Deukmejian moved to California in 1955 following a spell in the army. He entered private law practice and entered politics in 1962 as a Republican state Assembly man for Long Beach. After serving four years in the Assembly (1962–6) he was elected to the state Senate where he rose to become leader of the Republican group. In 1978 he successfully ran for the post of Attorney-General, a position he had sought unsuccessfully in 1969.

During his period in state politics Deukmejian established a strongly conservative record on law and order and promoted a capital punishment bill which passed over Governor Pat Brown's veto. He also gained support in sections of the business community by his attacks on regulation and his commitment to economic growth even at the expense of environmental concerns.

In 1981 he won the Republican gubernatorial primary and against the trend of the early 1980s went on in 1982 to beat Tom Bradley narrowly in the general election. Deukmejian's period as Governor saw California hit by a financial crisis and the imposition of a freeze on appointment and spending cuts which hit the state's university network particularly hard. Yet Deukmejian did not raise taxes as the legislature wanted and his record impressed voters so that when he again faced Bradley in a gubernatorial race in 1986 he won overwhelmingly. Deukmejian left the governorship in 1991 and was succeeded by another Republican Pete Wilson.

Subjects: Politics.

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