Two-term California Gov. George Deukmejian, whose anti-spending credo earned him the nickname "The Iron Duke," died Tuesday of natural causes. He was 89. The Republican spent three decades in California politics as an assemblyman, senator, state attorney general, and governor. He was elected as the state's 35th governor in 1982 when a massive absentee voting campaign edged him just ahead of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the AP reports. "It was a real comeback," says Ken Khachigian, a longtime friend of Deukmejian who recalls the governor-elect celebrating his win with a bowl of his favorite ice cream. As governor from 1983 to 1991, Deukmejian ran a law-and-order administration expanding the state prison system and supporting tough anti-crime legislation.
Despite a few notable exceptions, Deukmejian made his opposition to new taxes and increased government spending a focus of his political career. His favorite phrase was "commonsense," which in many cases translated into "cut" or "stop." He earned the nickname "The Iron Duke" from his GOP supporters in the Legislature for his willingness to veto spending proposals. After he eliminated a $1.5 billion deficit, Deukmejian declared in a State of the State address that he had "taken California from I-O-U to A-OK." "While he was a gracious and gentlemanly and almost courtly person, he was very determined to achieve his goals and very effective," says Republican Pete Wilson, who succeeded him as governor.