When Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides and his former rival, Controller Steve Westly, meet this week, it will be three weeks since their bitterly contested, down-to-the-wire primary race came to its conclusion. Now Westly is coming to Angelides’ aid as the challenger seeks to upend Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
According to sources, Angelides has some very specific ideas about how Westly can help his campaign. But Westly’s efforts to do so are complicated by a new pro-Schwarzenegger TV ad which humorously blasts Angelides by repeating some of Westly’s nearly successful primary attacks against him.
Westly and Angelides have not met since their hurriedly put together party unity event with the rest of the new Democratic ticket — absent Jerry Brown and Bill Lockyer — on June 7th in Los Angeles. Westly publicly pledged his support then, but the two will meet for the first time three weeks later.
The Angelides campaign is said to believe that the ex-eBay honcho can be helpful to the Democratic nominee in several specific ways beyond the usual party unity purposes, and the obvious question of moderate voters.
For one, he can help Angelides in the Central Valley. Westly swept the Central Valley in the primary. Angelides will need to hold Schwarzenegger’s margin of victory in the Central Valley down if he has to have a hope of winning in November.
For another, Westly can be helpful in Silicon Valley, which he also carried, both with voters and with the high tech industry of which he is a part.
For a third factor, Angelides wants Westly’s help with Asian-Americans, another emerging constituency carried by Westly. The controller’s wife, a Chinese immigrant-turned-successful-high tech executive in her own right, Anita Yu Westly, proved to be a rising star herself campaigning for her husband. Westly’s family story — their kids are learning Chinese, and he speaks Spanish, though “only 10 words of Chinese,” as he puts it — is seen by many as representing a hopeful future for California.
But there is a new complication for all this newfound harmony between Angelides and Westly, and that is the Schwarzenegger TV ad conceived and produced by his consultants and paid for by the California Republican Party. Steve Westly is the off-screen star.
The throughline of the new negative spot is that Angelides would move California backward, like the original official campaign ad version to which it is the successor. The new negative ad continues the visual motif of figures moving backwards. In the first ad, it began with a bird moving backwards, finally ending with Angelides himself walking backwards.
In the new version, all the visuals show Angelides walking backwards. And the message this time is not partially about tax increases, it is entirely about tax increases. And the messenger, whose identity the announcer teases until the end of the spot, is Angelides’ narrowly defeated Democratic primary rival, Controller Steve Westly.
Quoting him throughout, as “one person’s view of Phil Angelides” — the spot is called “Quote” — the ad assails Angelides for proposing $10 billion in tax increases. After a litany of tax hikes Angelides has proposed in recent years but says he is no longer for, with wry music playing throughout, the announcer coyly asks: “What if Steve Westly was right?”
That will be an interesting wrinkle for Westly and Angelides to deal with when they emerge from their meeting this week with a newfound political partnership for the general election.