Robert J. Lagomarsino, a congressman from Ventura County who advocated for the establishment of CSU Channel Islands and whose defeat in the 1992 primary election signaled a new era of partisanship in the House of Representatives, has died at age 94.
Lagomarsino, a native of Ventura and onetime mayor of Ojai, served in the California State Senate in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was elected to Congress in 1974, after U.S. Rep. Charles Teague died suddenly.
Lagomarsino won re-election to the House until he was defeated in a primary in 1992 by millionaire Michael Huffington, in a district that was newly formed due to reapportionment.
In Congress, Lagomarsino was involved in international relations, particularly with Latin America, and environmental protection. He helped establish Channel Islands National Park and advocated for expansion of national parks on the Central Coast.
In the California Legislature and later in Congress, he advocated for the establishment of a four-year university in Ventura County, a difficult battle that finally came to fruition when the California State University system acquired the former state mental hospital near Camarillo.
After an appeal from former CSUCI President Richard Rush, Lagomarsino agreed to donate his archives to the university, where his collection is now part of the Broome Library.
With Huffington’s election in 1992, followed by the election of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker in 1994, Congress embarked on an era of polarized politics that continues in the 21st century. The 24th Congressional District, Lagomarsino’s old district, was subsequently represented by Lois Capps and is now represented by Salud Carbajal, both Santa Barbara Democrats.
Lagomarsino grew up in Ventura and attended Ventura High School and UC Santa Barbara. He received his law degree from the University of Santa Clara. A fiscal conservative, he routinely voted against congressional pay raises.
Lagomarsino’s death, at his home in Ojai on Feb. 7, was first reported by the Ventura County Star.