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George Deukmejian, California governor in a different era, dies at 89 in Long Beach – Daily News

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George Deukmejian, the tight-fisted, tough-on-crime governor who had a calming influence on California politics in the 1980s, died Tuesday at his home in Long Beach, his family announced. He was 89.

Deukmejian was remembered by fellow Republicans and by Democrats for blending traditional conservative positions on fiscal and social issues with stands like his advocacy for the state divesting from South Africa during apartheid.

  • Gov. George Deukmejian, with his wife, Gloria, at his side, is administered his oath of office by Supreme Court Justice Malcom Lucas during a ceremony in front of the Capitol in Sacramento. in 1987. (Photo by the Associated Press)

    Gov. George Deukmejian, with his wife, Gloria, at his side, is administered his oath of office by Supreme Court Justice Malcom Lucas during a ceremony in front of the Capitol in Sacramento. in 1987. (Photo by the Associated Press)

  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, poses with former governors, from left, George Deukmejian, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown, and Pete Wilson, prior to the taping of “California Connected,” Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004, in Los Angeles. The show featured a panel discussion on “Can California Be Governed,” with the four former governors and a one-on-one interview with the new governor. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)

    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, poses with former governors, from left, George Deukmejian, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown, and Pete Wilson, prior to the taping of “California Connected,” Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004, in Los Angeles. The show featured a panel discussion on “Can California Be Governed,” with the four former governors and a one-on-one interview with the new governor. (AP Photo/Rene Macura)

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  • 7/2/11 – Former governor George Deukmejian, 83, is spending his retirement years at his longtime home in Long Beach. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

    7/2/11 – Former governor George Deukmejian, 83, is spending his retirement years at his longtime home in Long Beach. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

  • George Deukmejian talks at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013.   (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

    George Deukmejian talks at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013. (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

  • 12/1/6/11 – Former Governor George Deukmejian signs his name on the first steel column to be erected in the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, now under construction in Long Beach. Other dignitaries signed the column before watching it be lifted and placed in the ground. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

    12/1/6/11 – Former Governor George Deukmejian signs his name on the first steel column to be erected in the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, now under construction in Long Beach. Other dignitaries signed the column before watching it be lifted and placed in the ground. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

  • 12/1/6/11 – Former Governor George Deukmejian signs his name on the first steel column to be erected in the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, now under construction in Long Beach. Other dignitaries signed the column before watching it be lifted and placed in the ground. (Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

    12/1/6/11 – Former Governor George Deukmejian signs his name on the first steel column to be erected in the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, now under construction in Long Beach. Other dignitaries signed the column before watching it be lifted and placed in the ground. (Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

  • Former Californian Governor George Deukmejian attended the Press Telegram Amazing Women 2013 banquet in Lakewood, CA. on Wednesday, November 13, 2013. (Staff File Photo)

    Former Californian Governor George Deukmejian attended the Press Telegram Amazing Women 2013 banquet in Lakewood, CA. on Wednesday, November 13, 2013. (Staff File Photo)

  • George Deukmejian looks at the plaque after the Deukmejian family reviled it at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013.   (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

    George Deukmejian looks at the plaque after the Deukmejian family reviled it at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013. (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

  • George Deukmejian circa 1990 at the California State University Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach. Photo By Charles Bennett

    George Deukmejian circa 1990 at the California State University Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach. Photo By Charles Bennett

  • 04-07-11 – From left to right, Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, former California Governor George Deukmejian, L.A. County Supervisor, 4th district, Don Knabe and State Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal share a laugh during the groundbreaking ceremony for the George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach Thursday April, 7,2011.  Foster and Knabe hang onto tent poles to help keep the tent from blowing over during high wind gusts.  The $490 million, 31-courtroom courthouse is expected to be finished by late 2013. (Staff File Photo)

    04-07-11 – From left to right, Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, former California Governor George Deukmejian, L.A. County Supervisor, 4th district, Don Knabe and State Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal share a laugh during the groundbreaking ceremony for the George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach Thursday April, 7,2011. Foster and Knabe hang onto tent poles to help keep the tent from blowing over during high wind gusts. The $490 million, 31-courtroom courthouse is expected to be finished by late 2013. (Staff File Photo)

  • LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02:  Former California Governor George Deukmejian speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Deukmejian serves as chair of the board of directors of the California Science Center. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02: Former California Governor George Deukmejian speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. Deukmejian serves as chair of the board of directors of the California Science Center. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

  • 01/08/04: George Deukmejian

  • FILE – In this May 20, 1987 file photo Democratic presidential, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, left, and Republican California Governor George Deukmejian, chat at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. A former chief of staff says two-term California governor Deukmejian, whose anti-spending credo earned him the nickname “The Iron Duke,” has died at age 89. Steve Merksamer says Deukmejian died Tuesday, May 8, 2018, of natural causes.  (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski, File)

    FILE – In this May 20, 1987 file photo Democratic presidential, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, left, and Republican California Governor George Deukmejian, chat at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. A former chief of staff says two-term California governor Deukmejian, whose anti-spending credo earned him the nickname “The Iron Duke,” has died at age 89. Steve Merksamer says Deukmejian died Tuesday, May 8, 2018, of natural causes. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski, File)

  • Former California governor George Deukmejian welcomes the audience before Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster delivers an annual state of the city address Monday night at the Center Theater..20120109.Photo by Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer

    Former California governor George Deukmejian welcomes the audience before Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster delivers an annual state of the city address Monday night at the Center Theater..20120109.Photo by Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer

  • 7/26/12 – Michelle Patterson is CEO of EventComplete, the company putting together this year’s California Women’s Conference at the LB Convention Center. The Women’s Conference was started 29 years ago when George Deukmejian was governor. At that time, in 1982, he was interviewed by Michelle Patterson, then an eighth grader working on a story for her school paper. Michelle was inspired by the governor and she now is putting on the Women’s Conference he started. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

    7/26/12 – Michelle Patterson is CEO of EventComplete, the company putting together this year’s California Women’s Conference at the LB Convention Center. The Women’s Conference was started 29 years ago when George Deukmejian was governor. At that time, in 1982, he was interviewed by Michelle Patterson, then an eighth grader working on a story for her school paper. Michelle was inspired by the governor and she now is putting on the Women’s Conference he started. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

  • Former California Governor George Deukmejian speaks in support of Mayor Bob Foster’s Measure I, during the filming of a video spot at Marina Vista Park in 2008.  (File Photo)

    Former California Governor George Deukmejian speaks in support of Mayor Bob Foster’s Measure I, during the filming of a video spot at Marina Vista Park in 2008. (File Photo)

  • LONG BEACH, CALIF. USA —  Former California governor George Deukmejian arrives at long-time Press-Telegram editor Larry Allison’s memorial service at the Long Beach (Calif.) Convention Center on November 17, 2011. Allison, who had worked at the paper since 1957, died October 30 from complications after battling with pneumonia for two weeks.  (Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram)

    LONG BEACH, CALIF. USA — Former California governor George Deukmejian arrives at long-time Press-Telegram editor Larry Allison’s memorial service at the Long Beach (Calif.) Convention Center on November 17, 2011. Allison, who had worked at the paper since 1957, died October 30 from complications after battling with pneumonia for two weeks. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram)

  • 05-12-10 – Former California Governor George Deukmejian was on hand as  California Insurance Commissioner and candidate for Governor of California Steve Poizner spoke during the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce 2010 California Visionary Leaders Luncheon Series, held at the Hilton Hotel in Long Beach Thursday, May 14 2010. (Staff File Photo)

    05-12-10 – Former California Governor George Deukmejian was on hand as California Insurance Commissioner and candidate for Governor of California Steve Poizner spoke during the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce 2010 California Visionary Leaders Luncheon Series, held at the Hilton Hotel in Long Beach Thursday, May 14 2010. (Staff File Photo)

  • Long Beach Calif. –06-10-12 – Former California Gov. George Deukmejian and his wife Gloria during the Rancho Los Alamitos grand opening celebration Sunday afternoon. Visitors got a first look at the restored barns area, gardens and a look inside the new multi-purpose Rancho Center, that has a permanent exhibition that tells the story of the land and its inhabitants over time. (Staff File Photo)

    Long Beach Calif. –06-10-12 – Former California Gov. George Deukmejian and his wife Gloria during the Rancho Los Alamitos grand opening celebration Sunday afternoon. Visitors got a first look at the restored barns area, gardens and a look inside the new multi-purpose Rancho Center, that has a permanent exhibition that tells the story of the land and its inhabitants over time. (Staff File Photo)

  • California Attorney General Dan Lungren, center, is accompanied by Gov. Pete Wilson, right, and former governor George Deukmejian as he officially announces his candidacy for governor in Long Beach, California, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 1998. Lungren proposed trimming government and increasing its efficiency, but said his number one priority would be public safety. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    California Attorney General Dan Lungren, center, is accompanied by Gov. Pete Wilson, right, and former governor George Deukmejian as he officially announces his candidacy for governor in Long Beach, California, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 1998. Lungren proposed trimming government and increasing its efficiency, but said his number one priority would be public safety. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

  • LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02:  (L-R)  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02: (L-R) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02:  (R-L)  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 02: (R-L) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former California Governors Grey Davis and George Deukmejian attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the California Science Center’s World of Ecology October 2, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. The World of Ecology, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2009, will include walk-through aquariums, botanical gardens, and various interactive exhibits. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

  • 7/2/11 – Former governor George Deukmejian, 83, is spending his retirement years at his longtime home in Long Beach. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

    7/2/11 – Former governor George Deukmejian, 83, is spending his retirement years at his longtime home in Long Beach. Photo by Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer

  • President George H. Bush receives a round of applause from California Governor George Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, as Bush was introduced before the California Chamber of Commerce centennial dinner in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 1, 1990.    Bush told business leaders they should put their free enterprise talents to work in Eastern Europe and Panama. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

    President George H. Bush receives a round of applause from California Governor George Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, as Bush was introduced before the California Chamber of Commerce centennial dinner in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 1, 1990. Bush told business leaders they should put their free enterprise talents to work in Eastern Europe and Panama. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

  • Republican U.S. Senator Pete Wilson, right, shakes hands with presidential candidate George Bush as California Gov. George Deukmejian looks on at a rally in Orange, California on Tuesday, June 8, 1988. Wilson is running for re-election while Deukmejian is being considered as a possible running mate with Bush. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

    Republican U.S. Senator Pete Wilson, right, shakes hands with presidential candidate George Bush as California Gov. George Deukmejian looks on at a rally in Orange, California on Tuesday, June 8, 1988. Wilson is running for re-election while Deukmejian is being considered as a possible running mate with Bush. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

  • Democratic presidential, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, left, and Republican California Governor George Deukmejian, chat at the Capitol in Sacramento, California, May 20, 1987 during a brief meeting. Dukakis is on a campaign through the West and paid a courtesy call on Deukmejian on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

    Democratic presidential, Michael Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor, left, and Republican California Governor George Deukmejian, chat at the Capitol in Sacramento, California, May 20, 1987 during a brief meeting. Dukakis is on a campaign through the West and paid a courtesy call on Deukmejian on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

  • Remarks by Governor George Deukmejian, right, brings a laugh from San Francisco Giants great Willie Mays as he declared to be Willie Mays Day Monday, April 14, 1986, Sacramento, California. The event took place in the governor?s Capitol office in Sacramento. The former outfielder is now a special assistant to the team president. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

    Remarks by Governor George Deukmejian, right, brings a laugh from San Francisco Giants great Willie Mays as he declared to be Willie Mays Day Monday, April 14, 1986, Sacramento, California. The event took place in the governor?s Capitol office in Sacramento. The former outfielder is now a special assistant to the team president. (AP Photo/Walt Zeboski)

  • Former California Govs. George Deukmejian, Jerry Brown, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, from left, make a return appearance Friday, May 13, 2005, on”California Connected” a public television newsmagazine broadcast, before a roundtable discussion about the legislative changes they proposed on the program last season, at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

    Former California Govs. George Deukmejian, Jerry Brown, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, from left, make a return appearance Friday, May 13, 2005, on”California Connected” a public television newsmagazine broadcast, before a roundtable discussion about the legislative changes they proposed on the program last season, at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

  • Former California Governors Pete Wilson, left, Jerry Brown, second left, George Deukmejian, second right, and Gray Davis, right, stand with host Lisa McRee, as they make a return appearance,  Friday, May 13, 2005, on ÒCalifornia Connected,Ó a public television newsmagazine during a roundtable discussion about the legislative changes they proposed on the program last season, held at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

    Former California Governors Pete Wilson, left, Jerry Brown, second left, George Deukmejian, second right, and Gray Davis, right, stand with host Lisa McRee, as they make a return appearance, Friday, May 13, 2005, on ÒCalifornia Connected,Ó a public television newsmagazine during a roundtable discussion about the legislative changes they proposed on the program last season, held at The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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  • Former California governors, from far right to left, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian pose for photos after the taping of their panel discussion show at the Huntington Library.  (Staff File Photo)

    Former California governors, from far right to left, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian pose for photos after the taping of their panel discussion show at the Huntington Library. (Staff File Photo)

  • Former California governors George Deukmejian, far left, Pete Wilson, second from left, Gray Davis, far right, listen to Jerry Brown, second from right, as they answer reporters questions after the taping of their panel discussion show to be aired on PBS.  The show was taped at the Huntington Library.  (Staff File Photo)

    Former California governors George Deukmejian, far left, Pete Wilson, second from left, Gray Davis, far right, listen to Jerry Brown, second from right, as they answer reporters questions after the taping of their panel discussion show to be aired on PBS. The show was taped at the Huntington Library. (Staff File Photo)

  • Long Beach, Calif., — 08-26-13-  The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.  The $490-million structure in downtown Long Beach is set to open on Magnolia Avenue in fall 2013,  and will replace the nearby Long Beach Courthouse, completed in 1959 and considered overcrowded and obsolete.  (Staff File Photo)

    Long Beach, Calif., — 08-26-13- The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach. The $490-million structure in downtown Long Beach is set to open on Magnolia Avenue in fall 2013, and will replace the nearby Long Beach Courthouse, completed in 1959 and considered overcrowded and obsolete. (Staff File Photo)

  • Long Beach, Calif., — 08-26-13-  The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.  The $490-million structure in downtown Long Beach is set to open on Magnolia Avenue in fall 2013,  and will replace the nearby Long Beach Courthouse, completed in 1959 and considered overcrowded and obsolete.  (Staff File Photo)

    Long Beach, Calif., — 08-26-13- The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach. The $490-million structure in downtown Long Beach is set to open on Magnolia Avenue in fall 2013, and will replace the nearby Long Beach Courthouse, completed in 1959 and considered overcrowded and obsolete. (Staff File Photo)

  • George Deukmejian talks at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. 0n Thursday November 21, 2013.   (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

    George Deukmejian talks at the dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former governor in Long Beach, CA. 0n Thursday November 21, 2013. (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

  • The $490-million Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in downtown Long Beach. Photo:  Stephen Carr/  Los Angeles Newspaper Group

    The $490-million Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in downtown Long Beach. Photo: Stephen Carr/ Los Angeles Newspaper Group

  • Dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former Governor George Deukmejian in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013.   (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

    Dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former Governor George Deukmejian in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013. (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

  • Dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former Governor George Deukmejian in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013.   (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

    Dedication ceremony for the new Long Beach court house named after the former Governor George Deukmejian in Long Beach, CA. Thursday November 21, 2013. (Thomas R. Cordova/Press-Telegram/Daily Breeze)

  • 11/3/86 – At campaign pep rally this afternoon held at Orange County Fairgrounds Amphitheater. Left to right- Senate candidate Ed Zschau with Nancy Reagan waving to fans- Pres. Ronald Reagan laughing and Gov. George Deukmejian. The groupwas having a good time watching the carnival of events at the close of the campaign rally.

    11/3/86 – At campaign pep rally this afternoon held at Orange County Fairgrounds Amphitheater. Left to right- Senate candidate Ed Zschau with Nancy Reagan waving to fans- Pres. Ronald Reagan laughing and Gov. George Deukmejian. The groupwas having a good time watching the carnival of events at the close of the campaign rally.

  • California Gov. George Deukmejian, accompanied by local and state officials, gets first-hand look at Whittier earthquake damage. (Courtesy Whittier Museum)
 (Courtesy Whittier Museum)

    California Gov. George Deukmejian, accompanied by local and state officials, gets first-hand look at Whittier earthquake damage. (Courtesy Whittier Museum) (Courtesy Whittier Museum)

  • Gov. George Deukmejian, accompanied by local and state officials, gets first-hand look at the quake damage left in Norwalk. Photo dated: October 3, 1987. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library)

    Gov. George Deukmejian, accompanied by local and state officials, gets first-hand look at the quake damage left in Norwalk. Photo dated: October 3, 1987. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library)

  • 11/3/86 – At campaign pep rally held at Orange County Fairgrounds Amphitheater. Left to right- Senate candidate Ed Zschau with Nancy Reagan waving to fans- Pres. Ronald Reagan laughing and Gov. George Deukmejian. The group was having a good time watching the carnival of events at the close of the campaign rally. (File photo)

    11/3/86 – At campaign pep rally held at Orange County Fairgrounds Amphitheater. Left to right- Senate candidate Ed Zschau with Nancy Reagan waving to fans- Pres. Ronald Reagan laughing and Gov. George Deukmejian. The group was having a good time watching the carnival of events at the close of the campaign rally. (File photo)

  • No.1 Under Deukmejian (1983-1990), the state’s economy benefitted from interest rates tumbling from previously unfathomable heights and a noteworthy national economic rebound under President Reagan. In 1985, Deukmejian signed into law what empowers the state’s homeowners’ associations — the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (and that’s Davis as in then-Assemblyman Gray Davis). In Deukmejian’s terms, California averaged 225,259 new units; a half-century’s best 631,761 new residents; and 309,300 new jobs.  (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)

    No.1 Under Deukmejian (1983-1990), the state’s economy benefitted from interest rates tumbling from previously unfathomable heights and a noteworthy national economic rebound under President Reagan. In 1985, Deukmejian signed into law what empowers the state’s homeowners’ associations — the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (and that’s Davis as in then-Assemblyman Gray Davis). In Deukmejian’s terms, California averaged 225,259 new units; a half-century’s best 631,761 new residents; and 309,300 new jobs. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)

  • Gov. Ronald Reagan signs a bill restoring the death penalty in the State of California, for II categories of murder, in Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 24, 1973.  The bill, authored by State Sen. George Deukmejian, left, of Long Beach, makes execution mandatory upon conviction of murder in any of the II categories, effective Jan. 1, 1974.  Seated just beyond Reagan is Attorney Gen. Evelle Younger.  (AP Photo)

    Gov. Ronald Reagan signs a bill restoring the death penalty in the State of California, for II categories of murder, in Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 24, 1973. The bill, authored by State Sen. George Deukmejian, left, of Long Beach, makes execution mandatory upon conviction of murder in any of the II categories, effective Jan. 1, 1974. Seated just beyond Reagan is Attorney Gen. Evelle Younger. (AP Photo)

  • 3/13/10 – Former California Governor George Deukmejian, far left, congratulates Jim McDonnell after ceremoniously swearing McDonnell in as the new Chief of Police for Long Beach on stage at the Terrace Theatre in Long Beach. McDonnell wife, Kathy, right, is standing next to him.  (Staff File Photo)

    3/13/10 – Former California Governor George Deukmejian, far left, congratulates Jim McDonnell after ceremoniously swearing McDonnell in as the new Chief of Police for Long Beach on stage at the Terrace Theatre in Long Beach. McDonnell wife, Kathy, right, is standing next to him. (Staff File Photo)

“He represents the kind of politicians that California used to produce but doesn’t anymore: decent, moderate conservatives,” said Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Gov. Jerry Brown, whom Deukmejian followed in the office after defeating Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in the 1982 election, hailed the two-term governor as someone who “made friends across the political aisle.”

Brown said flags at the state capitol would be flown at half-staff in Deukmejian’s memory.

Candidates for Deukmejian’s old job offered praise for the Menands, New York native who represented the Long Beach area in the California Assembly and Senate before being elected state attorney general during a 28-year run in public office that started in 1963.

“He not only was a leader of principle, civility and strength. He was a powerful example for California’s vibrant Armenian-American community,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic front-runner for governor.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic former Los Angeles mayor who’s running for governor, noted that the child of parents who fled the Armenian genocide “would go on to enact efforts to oppose apartheid in South Africa and stand against oppression.”

John Cox, a Republican running for governor, called Deukmejian “a great Republican, public servant and governor for all Californians.”

A graduate of Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., who earned his law degree from St. John’s University in New York City, Deukmejian moved to California and entered private practice. Here he met his wife, Gloria Saatjian. They had three children.

His law-and-order reputation followed him from the state Legislature to the attorney general’s office and the governor’s chair.

Deukmejian led a legislative drive in 1977 to legalize the death penalty in California, overturning a veto by Jerry Brown, then in his first stint as governor. As attorney general from 1979 to 1983, he was known in part for his opposition to marijuana, including a publicity-grabbing moment when he and armed state agents helicoptered into a Mendocino County pot grow. As governor, he presided over the largest expansion of the state prison system.

But he earned his nickname — The Iron Duke — with his opposition to new taxes and spending on projects large and small. In 1983, soon after he replaced Brown, Deukmejian whacked state spending on bicycle projects from $5 million a year to the lowest amount he could legally get away with, $360,000, pleasing his fiscally conservative supporters. Deukmejian would later boast of using his veto powers more than 4,000 times on bills by the Democratic Party-controlled Legislature.

Having eliminated the $1.5 billion budget deficit he inherited from Brown, Deukmejian said in a State of the State address that he had “taken California from IOU to A-OK.”

An economic downturn, though, would produce an even larger deficit by the time Deukmejian turned the governor’s office over to fellow Republican Pete Wilson in 1991.

He held traditional conservative views on many social issues. Deukmejian vetoed a bill that would have made California the first state in the country to outlaw discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

His popularity in Republican circles was such that national GOP officials reached out to him in 1988 to gauge his interest in being George H.W. Bush’s vice presidential running mate. Deukmejian said he turned down the opportunity because he would have had to turn over the state to Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, a Democrat.

Reserved and modest, Deukmejian called it “embarrassing” in 2013 when Long Beach christened its newest building the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse.

On his way out of Sacramento and back to Long Beach in 1991, he joked that “I think they’re going to miss this wild and crazy guy.”

Tuesday, he was indeed missed.

Pitney, the political-science professor, said Deukemejian didn’t have major initiatives like other memorable governors — but that was never his goal.

“He kept the state on a sustainable path [fiscally],” Pitney said. “People remember him as somebody who was good at maintenance, just keeping the government running efficiently. And there’s something to be said for that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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