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Gov. Says He’ll Run Again to Push Reforms

Times Staff Writers

In a move to jump-start his push for November ballot measures, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he would run next year for a second term, casting his fall agenda as part of a broad seven-year plan to reform state politics and impose fiscal discipline.

The launch of Schwarzenegger’s 14-month reelection run instantly heightened the profile of two relatively obscure Democrats competing for their party’s nomination to challenge the Republican governor: state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly. Both were swamped Friday with the radio and television attention they have long craved, and both used it to pounce on Schwarzenegger.

With minimal fanfare and after days of broad hints, the governor announced his plans before 200 invited guests at the end of a 40-minute gathering to promote his ballot measures. Describing himself as “a follow-through guy,” he said his aim was to finish the job he started two years ago in the recall campaign that swept him into office.

“I’m in there for seven years,” Schwarzenegger said, setting off a burst of cheers. “Yes, I will run for governor.”

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The setting of Schwarzenegger’s campaign launch -- a nondescript San Diego theater featuring such acts as Zap Mama and Club Rubber this fall -- offered a stark contrast to the high drama of his 2003 announcement on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” that he would run in the recall, a moment that turned that election into a worldwide spectacle.

Outside the downtown theater, named 4th and B, a noisy union protest illustrated the fierce opposition that Schwarzenegger faces from organized labor in the Nov. 8 special election that he called to accelerate a vote on his initiatives. A half-dozen helmeted police officers on horseback watched as about 200 demonstrators carrying signs mocking Schwarzenegger marched along the sidewalk shouting call-and-response chants: “Vote No!” they yelled. Men responded through bullhorns: “In November!”

“He said he wouldn’t sell out to the special interests, and it’s my opinion that he has,” said Jim Baker, 41, a sheet metal workers’ union organizer holding a “For Sale” sign with Schwarzenegger’s photo.

While packaged as an enthusiastic leap forward, Schwarzenegger’s move into the race reflects the difficult political realities for him. He is a far less popular politician than in the heady days after the recall; little more than a third of voters approved of his job as governor in a recent poll. The timing of his announcement was driven largely by the need to encourage donations to his November initiatives because donors have been worried that he would decide not to run.

His troubles have given fresh hope to Democrats, whose own candidates are far less known than the former movie actor.

In Sacramento, Angelides lashed out at Schwarzenegger, while in Palo Alto, Westly did the same. Angelides called Schwarzenegger “a failed governor, a photo-op politician who has left a long trail of shattered promises and missed opportunities.”

Responding to questions from reporters, the treasurer contrasted his own liberal politics -- an asset in the June Democratic primary if not necessarily in a general election -- with conservative stands taken by the governor. Angelides said he would raise taxes on the rich if needed and sign legislation to approve same-sex marriage and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

“If needed to balance the budget, I will be willing to raise income taxes on the wealthiest and close corporate benefits and loopholes that have been given over the last few years,” Angelides said, repeating a long-held view.

Schwarzenegger has rejected calls to raise taxes, but suggested higher taxes might be needed if voters reject Proposition 76, his initiative to restrain state spending and expand the governor’s budget powers. Schwarzenegger has also vowed to veto bills on gay marriage and driver’s licenses passed by the Legislature. Those moves have helped him sustain Republican support, but complicated his appeals to Democrats and independents whose backing is crucial in statewide elections.

For his part, Westly echoed union charges that Schwarzenegger had been “attacking teachers, nurses and firefighters.” In an interview, he also sought to draw attention to controversy over a Schwarzenegger contract worth at least $5 million to write columns and “further the business interests” of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines. Schwarzenegger canceled the contract after the arrangement was revealed this summer.

Citing Schwarzenegger’s veto of a bill opposed by the magazines’ major advertisers, Westly renewed his demand that the governor release 10 years of tax returns as the controller plans to do next week. “If the governor wants to be a warrior for the people, he needs to come clean,” Westly said.

Westly’s remarks came shortly after Schwarzenegger told the San Diego crowd that he would be a “warrior” fighting tax increases advocated by “union bosses.” Schwarzenegger hammered the leaders of public employee unions, in particular, for their months of television ads depicting him as a threat to the livelihoods of teachers, firefighters, police officers and nurses.

“They’re trying to use scare tactics to scare you people to vote no,” he said.

He said “union bosses” were “controlling everyone up there in Sacramento” and believed they could “control all of you” with misleading television ads.

“This is all going in that direction: raising your taxes,” he said. “But I’m there as your warrior -- remember that -- to protect you.”

The governor made the most of the large media crowd lured to San Diego by talk of a reelection announcement, distilling arguments for his ballot measures: Proposition 74, which would extend teachers’ probation period from two years to five; Proposition 76, the budget measure; and Proposition 77, which would strip legislators of their power to draw congressional and legislative districts.

Schwarzenegger and his aides also hinted strongly that he would soon endorse a fourth measure, Proposition 75, which would bar public employee unions from using members’ dues for political donations without consent.

“We don’t steal money from people’s paychecks without asking them for it,” Schwarzenegger campaign strategist Mike Murphy told reporters. “That’s Soprano fundraising over in the union boss world, and we don’t play that game.”

Union ads depict Proposition 75 as part of the governor’s “hidden agenda” to cut the supply of political money to those brave enough to challenge Schwarzenegger proposals that they say would harm working Californians.

Murphy, however, said there was a breach between members and leaders of public employee unions. He noted that Schwarzenegger was a union member, alluding to his allegiance to the Screen Actors Guild, and said the campaign would send mail promoting his ballot measures to union households.

“Right now, the union employees are captive of this leadership elite” pursuing political goals that the members don’t share, Murphy said. “So now, guess what: Union members get to vote in the polls too on election day. And we think a lot of them are going to vote for the Arnold reform agenda.”

When Schwarzenegger opened his initiative campaign at a forum in Riverside on Monday, he voiced less fraternal views toward union members, telling supporters that labor “bosses” wanted to “give pensions and healthcare and all of those kinds of benefits to the state employees.”

But on Friday, Schwarzenegger aimed his rhetorical fire more narrowly at union leadership. Overall, he portrayed his November ballot package as a continuation of his agenda in the recall, in both cases a matter of “the people taking back the power.”

“In the movie business,” Schwarzenegger said, “we call this the sequel.”

Finnegan reported from San Diego and Salladay from Sacramento.


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