Richard Mountjoy, who was one of the Legislature’s most colorful and outspoken members – particularly in defense of gun owners – for more than two decades, died Monday night at his home in Monrovia. He was 83.
Mountjoy, who owned a construction company, was elected to the Assembly in 1978 as one of the self-proclaimed “Proposition 13 babies” who rode the landmark anti-tax measure into the Capitol. Sixteen years later, he won a special election and segued into the Senate for another six years.
That shift of houses was the centerpiece of an epic parliamentary maneuver.
Republicans won what seemed to be a one-seat Assembly majority in 1994. However, Democratic Speaker Willie Brown held onto the office by gaining the support of one GOP member and engineering the ouster of Mountjoy from the Assembly because he had won a special Senate election, thus blocking Republicans from electing a new speaker. It took a year for Republicans to recoup and briefly elect a speaker, Curt Pringle.
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Mountjoy not only battled Democrats but even fellow Republicans he believed to be insufficiently conservative, such as George Deukmejian, the GOP governor during the 1980s. He was one of the sponsors of Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure aimed at denying public benefits to illegal immigrants. And he offered himself in 2006 as a sacrificial candidate for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein, losing by 24 percentage points.
Through all his political battles, however, Mountjoy came across as someone who was enjoying himself immensely, happily engaging in floor debates and chatting and joking with fellow legislators and reporters. And when his son Dennis was elected to the Assembly, he displayed the same happy warrior demeanor.
Before becoming a state legislator, Richard Mountjoy, who was born and reared in the Monrovia area, served in the Navy during the Korean War, worked as an auto mechanic, and did construction work before founding Mountjoy Construction Co., which specialized in commercial building, with his brother. He also served on the Monrovia City Council, including a stint as mayor.
Mountjoy’s wife, Earline, preceded him in death. Services are pending.