There are two declared Democratic candidates for governor next year, State Controller Steve Westly and State Treasurer Phil Angelides. And though rumors have swirled that another Hollywood star (read: Warren Beatty or Rob Reiner) would throw their hat into the ring that seems increasingly unlikely. Reiner has officially declared that he is not running. And Beatty simply seems enamored with the media attention his gubernatorial trial balloon brings—and if he did run he would face an incredible uphill battle in terms of fundraising to compete with the well-heeled Angelides and Westly campaign (unless, that is, he dumped millions of his own into the race).
So Angelides and Westly it is. The two campaigns were united to defeat the governor’s initiatives this November, but since have been trying to stake out territory with the Democratic primary electorate. Common wisdom is that Angelides is the more liberal of the two candidates. He has been an outspoken critic of Schwarzenegger since Day One, while Westly worked closely with the governor during his first 6 months in office.
Both candidates would love to present themselves as “most likely to succeed” in the general election, but most polls have shown the two running within the margin of error of one another versus Schwarzenegger (with hefty amounts of undecideds).
Angelides has already sown up the endorsements of many of the state’s recognizable Democratic names, including Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer. Angelides has showed signs that he will run on a platform that argues California is a “blue state,” and that he is the “bluest” of potential nominees.
A few months back, Jeff Barker at the News and Review took a look at Anglides’ strategy of aligning Schwarzenegger with President Bush (“red staters”).
It will be interesting to see how Angelides’ stance as an anti-debt budget hawk plays out. He has vehemently argued against increased borrowing (Westly, in contrast, campaigned with Schwarzenegger to pass a $15 billion bond in ealr 2004). And Angelides has vehemently opposed cuts to state programs. So with the state facing an ongoing, albeit slowly shrinking, structural deficit, that makes higher taxes Anglides’ somewhat unspoken recommendation to solve the imbalance.
While Angelides appears to be campaigning for the more liberal elements of the Democratic primary , Westly is trying to carve out a niche in the center. In interviews he frequently describes himself as a “moderate” and a “pragmatist” dedicated to creative solutions, regardless of what part of the political spectrum generate them. Last week, he launched into a critic of Schwarzenegger on environmental issues. And he points to his record as an eBay executive, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, as evidence that he is a creative entrepreneur.
Both campaigns have been reticent to openly criticize one another. It never looks good to sling mud first. Still, there have been subtle jabs
Westly’s website lists the number of days since he made his personal income tax records open for public scrutiny dating back a decade—and he calls on Schwarzenegger and Angelides to do the same. When Susan Kennedy was hired by Schwarzenegger as his new chief of staff, the Westly campaign sent out this missive:
"In what can only be seen as an embarrassing setback for Treasurer Phil Angelides’ campaign for Governor, Susan Kennedy – the woman he hired to serve as Executive Director of the CA Democratic Party when he was party chair, and one of his high profile backers – has jumped ship and become Governor Schwarzenegger’s Chief of Staff."
Angelides’ camp quickly retorted that “Westly’s former chief operating officer, Vincent Brown, is now the Governor’s chief deputy finance director. He’ll join other Westly refugees already working for Schwarzenegger, including Westly’s former chief of staff Linda Adams.”
But overall the gloves remain on in the primary bout.
In an unusual move, the Republican Party at the most recent convention endorsed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reelection bid many months before next June’s primary. But in recent weeks, in the wake of appointing former Gray Davis aide Susan Kennedy as chief of staff, some conservative activists have called on the party to rescind the early endorsement, most notably the California Republican Assembly.
There are have been whispers that there may be a primary challenge from the right, and at least one analyst, Republican consultant Dan Schnur, has suggested that Schwarzenegger look at running as an independent.
And while that may sound like bad news for Schwarzenegger, whose approval has dipped from the mid-60s in August of 2004 to the mid-30s, being challenged by the far-right of the Republican party may help him crawl back to the political center that helped launch him into the governorship in the 2003 recall.
This was a tough year for the actor-turned-politician. He began as perhaps the most popular politician in the state outside of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but called a special election pushing for four reform measures that never caught on. In early November, voters turned back every measure on the ballot, a clear indication (supported by the subsequent PPIC poll) that the electorate was unhappy with the $300 million boondoggle.
Since, the governor has shown signs that he is taking a more centrist stand. Administration officials are reportedly working on introducing a $50 billion infrastructure bond, an expansion to children’s healthcare, cutting a deal on a hike of the minimum wage, and lowering allowable greenhouse gas emissions.
In a state with a distinctive Democratic registration advantage, Schwarzenegger will need to win back Democratic voters that he lost in the special election (but won in the recall). It looks as though next year’s policy agenda is his attempt to do that.
Though the governor’s approval ratings are sagging at all-time lows, history is on his side for his reelection. Dating back decades, almost every California incumbent governor has won their race for reelection.
But as the governor tries to paddle toward the political center, he is being attacked from the right as caving to Democrats (even before he has officially rolled out those policies) and both the Angelides and Westly campaigns will soon hit full stride with a steady dose of Democratic criticism from the left.
Candidate: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Current Job: Governor
Cash on Hand: S634,155.68 , as of June 30.
Consultant: Mike Murphy
Candidate: Phil Angelides
Current Job: State Treasurer
Cash on Hand: $15,210,838.57, as of June 30.
Candidate: Steve Westly
Current Job: State Controller
Cash on Hand: $11,424,021.67, as of June 30.
Consultant: Garry South
Candidate: Peter Camejo
Current Job: Financier, VP candidate with Ralph Nader in 2004, perennial gubernatorial candidate
Cash on Hand: $0, no reports filed.
Note: In totaling cash-on-hand, I have only used accounts that are limited by Prop 34 contribution limits so candidate-controller initiative committees (like the California Recovery Team [Schwarzenegger] and Standing up for California [Angelides] have not been included.