California Lobbyist Rod Blonien Dies

Longtime lobbyist dies March 13.
March 16, 2012

Rod Blonien

Rod Blonien

Rod Blonien, a tireless California lobbyist for horse racing and gambling interests, died at his home in Sacramento on March 13 of an apparent heart attack. Blonien, 65, was a former official in the George Deukmejian administration, first as the governor's legislative secretary and later as undersecretary of the California Department of Corrections.

After founding his own lobbying firm in 1987, he was instrumental in helping pass most major racing legislation in the state going back to the formation of the satellite wagering network in the late 1980s, said Kirk Breed, a fellow lobbyist at the time who is now the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board.

Blonien represented Los Alamitos Race Course and the Commerce Club Casino, the state's largest card club. He also lobbied on behalf of Hollywood Park and the Thoroughbred Owners of California at different times, Breed said.

“Rod Blonien was our lobbyist for many, many years,” said Ed Allred, owner of Los Alamitos Race Course. “I inherited him through Chris Bardis and Lloyd Arnold when they owned Los Alamitos in the late 1980s. Rod had been with us for 22 years. He was much more than a lobbyist. He was a good friend and we had a lot of good times together. Los Alamitos and Quarter Horse racing always relied on him. He was a lobbyist for many different entities, but he always said that if there was some conflict he’d always stay with Los Alamitos. He was a total good guy and a great friend. We’ll have to regroup as there are some things that we need to work on. I could not believe how quickly this happened. I’ll miss him and (Los Alamitos President) Cathy Monji will miss him dearly as well. We’ll all miss him. I can’t say enough good things about my friend, Rod Blonien.”

Among the more recent legislative moves Blonien supported were advance deposit wagering and mini-satellites at bar and restaurants. He was also behind legislation authorizing video poker in California that is pending. Breed said Blonien was most helpful to racing by convincing legislators that more wagering handle needed to go to the tracks and horsemen and less of it to the state.

A native of Wisconsin, he is survived by his wife, Noreen, four children, and 11 grandchildren, as well as a brother and sister.

A rosary is to be held March 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. A funeral Mass at the cathedral is March 16 at 10 a.m.