Lungren, currently the state attorney general, announced his candidacy this week and repeatedly cited his Catholic beliefs in his announcement speech. "If we are to be a successful people, we have to be a religious people as well," he said. He also said, "Separation of church and state doesn't mean separation of public debate and religious values," and "I'm a Catholic. I believe in penance and redemption."
A spokesman for the Democratic candidate Al Checchi said his comments are alarming and inappropriate. Elena Stern said Lungren "is trying to mask his extremism in religion." Kam Kuwata, campaign manager for another Democratic candidate, Jane Harman, said he felt "a little queasy" about Lungren's remarks as "dangerously close to saying we need to have a state religion." However, Lungren's supporters said the alarming news is that anyone would question that a candidate should rely on religious beliefs for moral guidance.