And They're Off. . .
The candidates are starting to out themselves. I can already tell I'm gonna love it. Check out the pre-season warm up as reported in today's SF Chronicle:
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and state Treasurer Phil Angelides became the first Democrats to say they will challenge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should the popular Republican governor run for re-election next year.P.S. Rob Reiner vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger? Honestly, who comes up with this stuff?
Angelides became the first official Democratic challenger to the governor, kicking off his campaign Tuesday by charging Schwarzenegger has broken campaign promises and endorsed "Bush-Cheney policies of debt, division and diminished opportunity."
But Lockyer's comments, coming during a lunch with California reporters in Washington, D.C., caused the greater stir.
First, the attorney general said he plans to run for governor next year, adding "it's not a formal announcement, but that's what I'm working on."
Then, he criticized Schwarzenegger's leadership style, saying "I don't like to dwell on this. But it has a little bit of the sort of the odor of Austrian politics. There's a sort of arrogance of power that bothers me. You know, Arnold is still an Austrian citizen."
Asked pointedly if he were referring to Nazi-era Austria, the attorney general replied, "I'm just talking about the culture,'' he said, adding that there was a "long history from the Austria-Hungarian empire on, of sort of a more autocracy... it's a more elite system."
Karen Hanretty, spokeswoman for the California Republican Party, quickly responded, calling Lockyer's statements appalling and outrageous. She sought to tie Lockyer and Angelides together as out of the mainstream with state voters.
"We have two spokesmen for the California Democratic Party today, one of them promoting tax increases, and the other comparing the governor to the Nazis," she said.
With 15 months until the 2006 election for governor, and a full year before the Democratic primary, the efforts by Angelides and Lockyer signaled the start of an expensive and combative campaign to unseat the governor.
Lockyer said Tuesday he has already banked $11 million for his next race, and Angelides, formerly a wealthy developer, has $12 million ready.
"We have a governor who thinks it's fine to cut assistance to children, to the poor—that somehow, if we just shower more fortune on the fortunate, the crumbs will reach the rest, like the leftovers of a Hollywood dinner party," Angelides told cheering supporters in Sacramento, one of 19 stops he plans to make during his five-day campaign rollout.
"Unlike Gov. Schwarzenegger, I don't believe in a Charles Darwin fiscal policy, and I don't believe in a Marie Antoinette tax policy," he said. "I don't believe a great state's economy should be a race to the bottom."
Angelides has already racked up a hefty list of endorsements from leading Democrats—including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. He has criticized Schwarzenegger for months, positioned himself to pick up support from many of the party's major backers, including labor unions and teachers, Democrats said.
But Lockyer's comments signal an energetic primary fight.
A recent Field Poll showed that film director Rob Reiner is the lead choice among Democrats to challenge the governor, followed by Lockyer, Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly.
Angelides acknowledged Tuesday that he was "a relatively unknown public servant looking to take on a global action hero, an international celebrity."
"But I believe the governor is taking us in the wrong direction ... and one of the reasons I'm announcing early is that I believe that each and every day, he is damaging California's economic competitiveness, and dividing our state," he said. "He's gone from being a supposed healer to someone attacking nurses and teachers and working men and women."
For his part, Lockyer—addressing a question sure to dog him throughout a primary campaign—again acknowledged he voted for Schwarzenegger in 2003. But he insisted he has been disappointed by the governor's emphasis on fund raising.
"I expected reform," he said. "I expected more serious problem solving. I expected
less time on fund raising."