Ron Unz, the derring-do Republican who led the successful campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California, is mounting a challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D).

Unz, who is also sponsoring a ballot initiative to radically alter campaign finance in the Golden State, vowed that his campaign "will go where politicians fear to tread."

The 38-year-old millionaire and Silicon Valley entrepreneur will certainly shake up the Republican primary. Among Republicans in California, Unz is definitely one of those who work "outside of the box." Dismissed by some a few years back as a rich gadfly, Unz has proven himself to be a master at the California initiative process, and his latest attempt to reform the way campaigns are run, with his call for public financing, instant disclosure over the Internet of donations and other controls, is equally controversial for some GOP traditionalists.

In the primary, Unz will face San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn and state Sen. Ray Haynes from Riverside, two Republicans from the more conservative wing of the state party. U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell, a more moderate Republican from San Jose, is reportedly considering a run. Feinstein has no opposition.

Unz, who lost a bid for the governor's office in 1994, said he would put a $6 million spending cap on his campaign and would run on such issues as ending bilingual education nationally, cleaning up campaign financing and tackling ethnic and racial strife.

Clinton: Democrats Could Pick Up Senate

Unz notwithstanding, President Clinton now says Democrats may regain control of the Senate in the 2000 elections, a daunting task because Republicans hold a 10-member majority and only one-third of the 100 seats are up for election.

"I didn't think I could say this six months ago, but we now have, I believe, a reasonable chance to pick up enough seats not only to have a majority in the House--which everybody knows and even our adversaries acknowledge--but even in the Senate, thanks in no small measure to the extraordinary people who are running for the Senate seats on our side," the president told a gathering of the New Democrat Network last week.

The president regaled the partisan audience with his analysis of the 1992 and 1996 elections, saying he had offered the nation a case for new fiscal restraints and education investments.

"And against our argument, what the Republicans said was what they've been saying about Democrats for 30 years--you know, 'They're too liberal, you can't trust them with your money, they'll raise your taxes, they never met a government program they didn't like, they sleep next to a bureaucratic pile of rules at night, you know, they wouldn't defend the country if their life depended on it.' You know, you've heard all that stuff.

"They had this sort of cardboard cutout image of Democrats that they tried to paste on every candidate's face at election time," Clinton said. "But all we had was an argument. And things were sufficiently bad in this country, the economy was in terrible shape, the society was divided, the crime rate and the welfare rolls were exploding, and people decided to take a chance on the argument."

Staff writer Charles Babington contributed to this report.