There were a few moments in the past two weeks in which it seemed as though state Treasurer Phil Angelides was finally about to put away the Democratic gubernatorial primary win which was long expected to go to him. Now, although his early endorsements by most of the Democratic establishment may yet win the nomination for him, he is scrambling to defend his environmental record against a barrage of TV attacks from Controller Steve Westly.
In cinematic ads featuring helicopter shots of Angelides developments, Westly scores the treasurer for his land developer days, criticizing him for violating the Clean Water Act, building on flood plains, and his close association with his longtime patron, Sacramento development kingpin Angelo Tsakopoulos.
Yesterday, Angelides’ campaign produced two events to counter Westly’s attacks against him.
First a conference call for selected reporters with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. The senator’s first, very narrow, victory over Republican Bruce Herschensohn in 1992 was greatly aided by then state Democratic chairman Angelides’ mobilization of party resources on her behalf and by then state Democratic political director Bob Mulholland’s dramatic election eve confrontation of Herschensohn for patronizing a Hollywood strip club, the Seventh Veil. (Mulholland is a senior advisor to Angelides in this campaign.) Angelides publicly dismissed Mulholland for his “rogue” tactic on behalf of Boxer’s campaign, then brought him back right after the election.
Boxer, an environmentalist champion herself, insists that Angelides is good on the environment.
Then, after campaigning in San Diego with Teamsters and high school students, Angelides did a rather hastily scheduled afternoon event in Sacramento with longtime environmentalist supporters such as veteran Sierra Club lobbyist and renewable energy advocate V. John White.
The Sierra Club, which has endorsed both Angelides and Westly in this campaign, declined to endorse Angelides when he ran for state treasurer.
But in public office, Angelides has compiled a strong environmental record. He has especially pleased environmentalists by steering public pension funds into renewable energy and in-fill development projects. Now he has a raft of environmental endorsements, which he is brandishing against Westly’s attacks on his record as a land developer.
As he attempts to defend himself in events geared for the news media, which is not paying much attention, Angelides attacks Westly on the air with new TV advertising painting the controller as a “pay to play” politician soliciting contributions in exchange for public pension fund investments.
While both campaigns touted their openness through most of the campaign, both Angelides and Westly have become quite stealthy. Their negative ads are mostly not to be found on their campaign web sites, which once heralded the arrival of new campaign advertising.
Who is most happy about this campaign? The friends of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“We love this,” says one Schwarzenegger advisor who asks not to be named. “Here you have two guys who are little known and have less charisma. Instead of showing they are up to the job, they are introducing themselves to the public by smearing each other. Whichever one wins, Arnold goes up against a guy defined as a guy who wants to raise your taxes, bad on the environment, a crook.”
CORRECTION: Longtime Sierra Club contract lobbyist V. John White no longer lobbies for the organization. He was there wearing one of his other hats, that of California League of Conservation Voters board member.