McCain Joins Gov. to Push Ballot Measures
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has collected more than $76 million in contributions since running in the recall election two years ago, campaigned Monday with U.S. Sen. John McCain, who once called former Gov. Gray Davis’ push to raise $26 million “disgraceful.”
McCain appeared with the governor at campaign events in Burbank and Oakland, touting the initiatives that Schwarzenegger wants passed in the Nov. 8 special election. By bringing in a senator who built an identity challenging the status quo, Schwarzenegger was trying to stoke interest in the ballot measures, which have been trailing badly in public opinion polls.
At an afternoon appearance at the Oakland Airport Hilton before 200 invited guests from Bay Area Republican groups and local chambers of commerce, the Arizona senator said Schwarzenegger’s ballot measures would rattle the political establishment.
“He’s got principle. He’s got determination and he’s got guts to take on the special interests,” McCain said.
The governor has portrayed his efforts to restrain state spending, toughen teacher tenure requirements and redraw voting districts as a menu of reforms that are an extension of the recall campaign. That message has yet to resonate with voters, who oppose the special election, several recent polls have shown.
McCain’s arrival in California gave the Schwarzenegger agenda the imprimatur of a nationally known Republican with reformist credentials. Some watchdog groups said it was also an ironic reminder of Schwarzenegger’s promise during the recall campaign to shut down a Sacramento political culture where “money goes in” and “favors go out.”
In a visit to California in 2001, McCain described former Gov. Gray Davis’ goal of raising $26 million in campaign money as “disgraceful,” and told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s an argument for campaign finance reform in California.”
Schwarzenegger has raised more than $36 million this year, largely for his ballot measures.
Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said she found it “unfortunate” that McCain would appear with the governor. Schwarzenegger ran on a platform of “changing politics as usual,” she said, “but really turned 2005 into a bumper crop for fundraising.”
One contribution to the governor raised questions Monday. A Santa Monica-based consumer group, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said Schwarzenegger should return a $105,000 donation he received from an insurance industry group Friday, the same day he vetoed a bill that it opposed.
The bill would have compelled insurers to pick up the medical bills for people covered by Medi-Cal and injured in accidents caused by insured drivers. The measure would have cost insurers $225 million a year, according to the foundation.
At a news conference at the Burbank Airport Hilton, the senator was questioned about Schwarzenegger’s fundraising record.
A reporter reminded him of his comments in 2001, which had been circulated Monday by a Democratic operative, and asked why he had been “silent” about the Republican governor.
“I haven’t been silent,” McCain shot back.
McCain said Schwarzenegger must fight unions that can spend tens of millions of dollars and work within that system -- as Davis did, he said -- by raising his own money.
“I think the governor has played by the rules of the game,” McCain said. “Do I like the game? No. But to tie one hand behind his back would not be appropriate.”
Later, McCain added that he had advised Schwarzenegger to pursue campaign finance reform once the special election is past.
Schwarzenegger said he suggested legislation to restrict fundraising during state budget negotiations, but lawmakers rejected it because they “wanted to hold onto the status quo.”
Schwarzenegger told the Oakland crowd Monday: “I promised the people when I got elected that I would fix the broken system.” He said he would spend all the time necessary to accomplish the task. “The issue of reform is much larger than I am. And this is why it’s worth fighting for.”
McCain also said the effort is a worthy one. In his Burbank appearance, the senator said of the governor’s redistricting plan: “It is astonishing that here in the great state of California all 53 congressmen, every member of the state house and Senate, did such a magnificent job that not a single one of them was turned out of office.
“Well, it seems that maybe it’s more difficult to keep your job in the Politburo in Havana than it is in the California state Assembly,” he said.
McCain ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000, with two of Schwarzenegger’s top campaign aides, Mike Murphy and Todd Harris, working for him. Campaigning in a bus he called the “Straight Talk Express,” he earned a reputation as a fearless candidate who would talk openly to reporters and field unscripted questions from the public.
McCain was asked about Schwarzenegger’s more controlled style, where news conferences are sparing and what are billed as “town hall” meetings with the public are actually choreographed appearances before invited guests.
The senator said he preferred more freewheeling events where guests are admitted randomly and questions are unpredictable. “The benefit of an open town hall meeting,” he said, “is, one, you get to hear a lot of different views, and, two, it has credibility.”
Schwarzenegger has agreed to at least one open campaign event before the election. On Oct. 24, he will appear at a forum in Walnut Creek organized by a Bay Area TV station and the Contra Costa Times.
Schwarzenegger will take questions from voters chosen by an “independent non-partisan research firm,” according to a statement by the newspaper and station, KTVU-Channel 2.
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Assn. and one of the governor’s most tenacious critics, is expected to appear along with Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) to represent an opposing view.