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The Robert J. Lagomarsino Collection Federal Papers

Biography

Linear Feet: 200
Accession No.: 1/92
Location: Broome Library

It was 1965, when California State Senator Robert Lagomarsino first voted to authorize funds for an advance acquisition site study for a state college. At that time, he also introduced Senate Bill #70, which called for the establishment of a state college for Ventura County. Almost twenty-five years later, Mr. Lagomarsino continued his fight for a Ventura County university at a 1990 California State University site selection meeting.In 1992, Mr. Lagomarsino generously dedicated his papers, furniture, and memorabilia to California State University, Northridge's satellite campus in Ventura, California. The donated collection was transferred in 2000 to California State University, Channel Islands, Ventura County's own four- year university and the newest campus in the California State University system.

Robert J. Lagomarsino is a native of Ventura County with a long and distinguished career in public service. He was born on September 4, 1926 in Ventura, California and attended Ventura High School. Mr. Lagomarsino served in the United States Navy as a pharmacist mate during World War II. He graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1950 and later, the Santa Clara University School of Law in 1954. In 1958, he was elected to the Ojai City Council and shortly thereafter, served as its mayor at the age of 32. In 1961, he was elected to the California Senate and in that same year, was named as one of five outstanding young men in the State by the California Junior Chamber of Commerce.

In Sacramento, Robert Lagomarsino gained a reputation as a hard-working, effective legislator and was re-elected three times (1961-1974), the later years under then governor, Ronald Reagan. At the time of his election to the U.S. Congress, Mr. Lagomarsino was the senior ranking senator from Southern California and a member of the five-person Senate Rules Committee, after having served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildlife. Major legislative achievements from this time period include the Garrigus-Lagomarsino Act (1963), which authorized vocational education centers in each county of the State; the California Child Anti-Pornography Act (1969); the Marine Resources Protection Act (1970); the California Wild and Scenic Rivers legislation; the Jury Reform Act (1972); the Consumer Protection Act (1972), which authorized cities to create anti-fraud units; and the Welfare Reform Act (1973).

After serving twelve years in the California Senate, Robert Lagomarsino became the only Republican elected to the United States House of Representatives in March of 1974, in a special election, when his own congressional 19th district representative, Charles Teague, suddenly passed away.

During his service as a United States Congressman from 1974-1992, Robert Lagomarsino was an active member of two major House Committees: the Foreign Affairs Committee, as the third-ranking Republican and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, as the second-ranking Republican. He was a Congressional Observer to the Geneva Arms Controls Talks and Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, which oversaw U.S. relations with Canada, Central America, and South America. He was also Chairman of the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, Co-Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan, and a member of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Committee. In addition, Mr. Lagomarsino served as Chairman of the POW/MIA Task Force, the only official body of Congress that was chaired by a Republican and was House author of a measure creating the Prisoner of War medal.

Congressman Lagomarsino made several trips abroad, by way of a study or investigative group, which subsequently generated a report or commentary based upon notable observations and perceptions. He toured South America, the Far East, the Pacific Region, the Soviet Union, and Europe numerous times, but held a particular interest in Southeast Asia; meeting with the Laos government in 1989 and, later, the Vietnamese government in 1990, to obtain information on POWS/MIAS in Southeast Asia.

He toured the Panama Canal as part of President Carter's diplomacy and was an observer to the Panama National Elections and Kuwait invasion under President Bush. Congressman Lagomarsino also attended annual interparliamentary conferences held in Mexico and on the European continent.

During his service in Washington, Congressman Lagomarsino specialized in environmental concerns, foreign affairs (particularly Latin America), and illegal drug distribution. He authored legislation that created the Channel Islands National Park, the Dick Smith Wilderness Area, the Los Padres National Forest, and co-authored the Drug War Bond Act and the Violent Crime and Drug Control Act. He was a leader in efforts to open overseas markets to U.S. products and to ban transfer of strategic goods or technology. Congressman Lagomarsino also maintained a voting record of 99%, with a resounding vote "NO" to every proposed congressional pay raise.

As the elected Secretary of the Republican Conference, Congressman Lagomarsino met regularly with President Ronald Reagan while Congress was in session. He was the President's congressman.

Congressman Lagomarsino compiled a consistent record over his twenty-five year career in support of clean air and water, conservation, governmental efficiency, law enforcement, safe transportation of hazardous materials, tax reform, strong military defense, veterans affairs, and was an early leader in preventive efforts of nuclear proliferation.

In 1992, Mr. Lagomarsino lost the primary election to multimillionaire Michael Huffington by five points. A congressional reapportionment plan that aided Republicans in California by eliminating a Democratic gerrymander, also placed Congressman Lagomarsino in an enormously complicated position, before the primary election. Mr. Lagomarsino ended up in the same district as his Simi Valley colleague, Representative Elton Gallegly.

Congressman Lagomarsino, not wishing to split the Republican party, chose to leave his hometown and stay with the Santa Barbara portion of his old district. There, he ran into Huffington, who challenged him in the primary. Despite considerable encouragement by his constituents to become a write-in candidate for the general election, Congressman Lagomarsino realized the "inherent obstacles" of finances and ballot technicalities and graciously declined. Huffington went on to serve one term as a member of Congress; losing a 1994 bid for the Senate.

Mr. Lagomarsino has been honored by organizations as diverse as the California and National Wildlife Federation, which named him "Legislative Conservationist of the Year" and the California Peace Officers Association, which bestowed the title of "Legislator of the Year." The Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center even bears his name: "The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitors' Center."

Robert Lagomarsino continues to play a part in history through abundant community involvement. A devoted member of the American Legion, Elks, Moose, and Rotary Club, he currently serves on the Community Advisory Board of the Channel Island campus of California State University, the Santa Cruz Island Foundation, the Santa Barbara Channel Foundation, and as Chairman of the Advisory Board for Food Share of Ventura.

On a broader and more international scale, Mr. Lagomarsino continues to sharpen his foreign relations skills as the Chairman of the Board of the American Alliance for Tax Equity and Vice Chairman of the American Samoa Economic Advisory Commission. He is also a member of the World Affairs Council of Ventura County and the Santa Barbara Committee on Foreign Relations.

He and his wife Norma, live in Ventura, California with their two yellow Labrador Retrievers, Missy Miller Lowenbrau and Samuel Adams. They have three children and six grandchildren.