Kevin Spillane says that he and Ken Khachigian are confident that their candidate, state Senator Chuck Poochigian, can take down former Governor and current Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. But there are some holes in the argument.
Spillane, a veteran of moderate Republican campaigns, is senior consultant to the Republican nominee for state attorney general; Khachigian, former chief speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, is chief strategist. “When Californians are reminded of Brown’s record, Chuck will win. He simply needs enough money to get his message out,” says Spillane.
Spillane won’t say what their fundraising goal is. “I won’t go down that road,” he says. “But we are confident we can raise enough money to make Chuck well enough known and credible enough.”
Spillane notes that his campaign is in much better shape than other down-ballot Republican candidates, most of which have very little money, and that Poochigian’s fundraising is picking up. Poochigian had accumulated $3.2 million as of the last reporting period a month ago. But Brown, husbanding his resources despite having a Democratic primary rival, LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, spending millions on TV advertising against him, had $4.4 million. Most of Poochigian’s money was raised not for the race for attorney general, but was transferred over from his state Senate fundraising account.
“Ultimately,” says Spillane, “we believe this race will be a referendum on Jerry Brown. While Brown’s popularity has recovered somewhat, it will decline rapidly” when voters are reminded of what they see as the bad old days of “Governor Moonbeam.”
The Poochigian team also has high hopes for provocative comments Brown may have made as a talk show host during the five year period between his 1992 presidential candidacy and his 1998 run for mayor of Oakland.
Indeed, as the campaigns sparred last week over varying interpretations of Oakland crime statistics and the endorsement of Brown by Poochigian’s hometown Fresno Police Officers Association, Spillane referred in a missive to “Brown’s long record of viciously negative comments about law enforcement.”
Which Brown says is absolutely false.
While Poochigian’s team are attempting to take down the former governor, Brown and company will hardly be in a passive, defensive posture.
The former governor describes his Republican challenger as “a desk chair crime fighter.” His campaign derides Poochigian as a career staffer and legislator from a safe Republican seat. Other Republicans, who hold out hope for an upset, note that the senator has never really had a highly competitive political race.
He gained his first prominence as a senior staffer for then Governor George Deukmejian, perhaps the most conservative governor since the 1930s. He was then appointments secretary for Governor Pete Wilson, before winning election first to the state Assembly, and then the Senate.
Poochigian is an intelligent, personable, pretty well-liked figure. He also is a conservative Republican with a conservative voting record, including on issues of central importance to the office of the state attorney general such as the environment, consumer rights, and abortion.
Brown’s campaign consultant, Ace Smith — himself the son of a former San Francisco district attorney who narrowly lost a race for state attorney general — is actually best known as an opposition research guru. You can bet that he has already compiled a thick dossier on Poochigian.
Brown, while controversial, has a higher image score (ratio of favorable to unfavorable) after more than 35 years in politics than Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, with a favorable rating of 45 to 50 percent and an unfavorable rating of 30 to 35 percent.
While Spillane derided Brown in an e-mail as “a three-time failed presidential candidate,” the truth is almost everyone who runs for president “fails” to win. But you have to be at a certain level to run in the first place.
Jerry Brown was twice the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, in 1976 and in 1992. The first place finishers in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes of those years both went on to become president. President Jimmy Carter bested the late-starting Brown for the Democratic nomination in 1976. President Bill Clinton bested the determinedly maverick Brown for the Democratic nomination in 1992. The former California governor actually defeated Clinton and Carter in a half-dozen state primary elections each.
It was only in 1980 that Brown’s presidential candidacy failed to attract much support. In retrospect, he clearly should not have run that year. With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and later, the Iranian hostage crisis, global security issues proved dominant. And the entry of Senator Ted Kennedy into the race immediately made the putative heir to Camelot the principal Democratic challenger to the president. There was no oxygen for Brown, or anyone else, in that primary race.
Brown moved to the fringes in that 1980 race, a major factor in his narrow 1982 loss for the U.S. Senate to Pete Wilson. Much of the “Moonbeam” material comes from that era.
But all lives present a moving target for an opponent, few more so than Brown’s. It will be an interesting challenge for Spillane, Khachigian, and Poochigian as they work to rapidly increase their fundraising, take relevant shots at Brown, and avoid the counter-barrage that will surely come should the Republican candidate get within hailing distance.
After two weeks of TV advertising rather than the originally announced one week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign has gone off the air. Except it hasn’t, really. For the TV ads that began yesterday by the California Republican Party have the same messages, the same visual style and cues, much the same language. No surprise, because they, too, are from the same producers, Schwarzenegger media consultants Alex Castellanos and Fred Davis.
In essence, Team Arnold is running a relay race, passing the baton from one part of an integrated campaign operation to another. Unlike an independent expenditure campaign — in which coordination and communication are prohibited by law — a political party advertising campaign, under the rubric of “issue advocacy,” can legally be highly coordinated with the party nominee’s campaign committee. So long as a specific vote is not advocated.
The party advertising campaign on Schwarzenegger’s behalf, in this go-round, amounts to a $3 million media buy. The party can raise money in larger amounts than the governor’s campaign committee.
Just like the two-week flight of TV ads that Schwarzenegger’s campaign began three days after the primary election, this flight of ads consists of a positive spot about Schwarzenegger and a negative spot about his Democratic challenger, Treasurer Phil Angelides.
There are some differences between the Republican Party ads and the Arnold campaign ads. The party ads use a female narrator whereas the campaign ads use a male narrator. The music in the party ads is in a different key. Oh, and the biggest difference. Steve Westly isn’t the off-screen star of any of the Arnold campaign spots.
The throughline of the positive spot — in both the official campaign and the party iterations — is that Schwarzenegger is moving California forward again. The throughline of the negative spot is that Angelides would move California backward, also like the original campaign ad version.
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?”
Actually, Angelides has been vague when asked if he supports one of the tax hikes cited in the ad, a change in the property tax to increase rates on commercial property owners. (Which the ad, of course, merely presents as “the property tax.”)
Other taxes, which would impact a majority of Californians, Angelides insists he would not raise. He says that the tax hikes he favors are the ones in the program he laid out on April 5th, in which he said he would raise taxes on the rich close corporate tax loopholes to “fully fund” education, balance the budget, and finance other new programs he is calling for.
He insists that what he is calling for does not amount to the $10 billion the Schwarzenegger and Westly campaigns came up with. He says it would be only $5 billion a year, perhaps closer to $6 billion say some around the campaign. In fact, his strategist Bob Mulholland wrote in a letter to the editor of the Modesto Bee complaining about columnist Dan Walters’ support of the $10 billion figure that it would be less than $5 billion.
But Angelides has problems, because he has not been specific about what he is calling for. The cost of the various programs he has endorsed appears to be greater than $10 billion, perhaps much greater. Angelides has yet to be clear how these programs would be paid for, other than to cite his tax plan.
Some 80 days since he declared that his centerpiece proposal of tax hikes on the rich and closure of corporate loopholes was an “exact” plan, he and his campaign still decline to specify what the program is.
I asked Angelides immediately after he announced the program in a major speech which corporate tax loopholes he would close. The first time, after mentioning a couple, he referred me to staff, which did not have the answer. Questioning the treasurer after another appearance, he said it was “on the web site.” But even now it is on neither his campaign nor state web sites.
The positive ad for Schwarzenegger is interesting because of its visual cues and iconography, and for what it may portend for a more sophisticated use of visual imagery than we are used to seeing in California political races. The spot is called “Foot.” As sprightly music plays and the announcer discusses how we can feel California moving forward again while a montage of varied and no doubt strategically selected Californians happily move about their lives, a moving image of a large foot is introduced.
The foot comes in and out of the montage, then it is two feet, then feet and legs, then finally the reveal, it is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Interspersed with the upbeat images of Californians, he has been walking — forward, of course — toward a group of his constituents in that rolling gait of his that is a cross between a cocky Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and a somewhat weary killer cyborg from the future. It works on a subconscious level; you don’t know what it is you’re watching at first, but you actually do.
This sort of iconography, more familiar in cinema, is more unusual in political advertising but it is a hallmark of Castellanos’ work. He’s best known for his negative ads, some of which have been highly controversial.
In another spot which, like “Foot,” focused on a body part, Castellanos helped conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms win a very tight 1990 re-election race against Harvey Gantt, the African American mayor of Charlotte. Entitled “Hands,” it featured a white man sitting at a table, holding and then crumpling a rejection letter. With a tight shot on the man’s hands, the announcer intoned: “You needed that job and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.”
The ad was highly effective. As was a Castellanos spot for George W. Bush’s re-election against John Kerry, entitled “Wolves.”
Something of a take-off on a famous 1984 ad for Ronald Reagan called “The Bear,” in which a grizzly bear was depicted as the symbolic stand-in for the menace of the Soviet Union, a pack of wolves in a forest is used to represent the threat faced by America in a hostile post-9/11 world. A threat which “Kerry and the liberals” responded to by cutting intelligence programs. The ad was highly effective, although it at least partially distorted Kerry’s record.
It will be interesting to see how this more sophisticated use of charged visual imagery plays out in this governor’s race.
** For the arithmetic fans.
** Here, incidentally, are those Republican TV spots boosting Schwarzenegger. There are some really tremendous differences between the Republican Party ads and the Arnold campaign ads. Uh, for example … the party ads use a female narrator whereas the campaign ads use a male narrator. The music in the party ads is in a different key. Oh, and the biggest difference. Steve Westly isn’t the off-screen star of any of the Arnold campaign spots.
** Speaking of pay, as we just were … California’s Citizens Compensation Commission, which does not set the rate of compensation for all citizens, merely the ones who are state elected officials, has just voted pay increases.
An 18% salary increase for statewide constitutional officers, but only a 2% increase for those not terribly popular members of the Legislature. Effective December 1st.
UPDATE: Schwarzenegger chief deputy press secretary Darrel Ng is quick to remind that the governor will continue his policy of not drawing a salary. So his 18% of nothing remains nothing.
Ng, incidentally, is the man who stopped special election opponents Warren Beatty and Annette Bening from entering Schwarzenegger’s San Diego town hall the Saturday before last November’s election.
** As of the noon hour, still no puff of white smoke over the Capitol dome to signify final agreement on a new state budget. But Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez still has time before he has to be in Berlin on July 5th for the final round of World Cup soccer games.
Incidentally, with the Speaker’s Office intent on promoting a sport that is very popular outside this country, I think it’s time for New West Notes to ramp up a similar effort. So … This weekend the Formula One racing world championship series resumes! Live at 9:30 AM Sunday on the Speed Channel, it’s the Canadian Grand Prix. The world’s best race drivers — and they really are, most of our NASCAR guys would be in deep guano trying to compete in F1, for one thing they can’t just drive around in a circle all the time — gather for the ninth grand prix of the season in the 19-race series.
Spain’s Fernando Alonso, the 25-year old reigning F1 world champion racing for the French Team Renault, is leading the F1 series again this year. He’s won the last three races in a row — the British, Monaco, and Spanish Grand Prixs. His closest challenger is the legendary German champion Michael Schumacher, now 37, the only seven-time world champion in F1 history, whose record string for the Italian Team Ferrarri was broken last year by the upstart Alonso. The talented (and partying) Finn Kimi Raikonnen, driving for the British Team McLaren-Mercedes, is frequently the fastest driver on the circuit. There are other top drivers as well, from around the world, in this colorful, sophisticated motorsport series that takes place on most of the continents of the world.
How big a deal is this sport outside the US? Well, it is the sport with the highest TV ratings in the world. And how do the drivers do? Let’s put it this way. I think they all make more money than an All-Pro quarterback. A few of them are compensated at Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s level, and up. No, not the $175,000 per year governor’s salary he gives back now.
** A little buyer’s remorse is setting in among media types around Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s LA schools reform deal. Here is veteran analyst Joe Scott with an insightful overview.
** The left side of the debate is realizing nothing is happening to change the immigration laws. Here is New West friend Marc Cooper with some incisive analysis and commentary.
The California Republican Party will today launch a major TV advertising blitz criticizing Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic challenger to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his advocacy of tax increases. The move comes as Angelides works to unify his own party around his bid.
The two ads, which are produced by media consultants also working for Schwarzenegger, will reportedly prominently feature criticisms of Angelides made in the Democratic primary by his narrowly defeated rival, Controller Steve Westly. The advertising campaign by the Republican Party, which clearly benefits the re-election of the former action superstar, is allowed under law as “issue advocacy.” The ads will not advocate a vote for Schwarzenegger. But their purpose is crystal clear.
As we have seen with the primary campaign, California’s political laws, or at least their implementation, are highly flexible. Angelides’ primary victory was enabled through the utilization of a near $10 million independent expenditure campaign on his behalf, which was 90 percent funded by the Sacramento development empire of his longtime patron and business partner and campaign finance co-chairman, Angelo Tsakopoulos, who hosted a fundraiser for Angelides at his home earlier this week.
The move comes with a private poll being discussed in well-informed circles of the Capitol’s “Third House.” Conducted in mid-June by a highly regarded Democratic polling firm, the survey of over a thousand likely voters gives Schwarzenegger a four-point lead over the former state Democratic chairman.
The hard numbers are Schwarzenegger 42%, Angelides 38%. When given a slight push, i.e., with “leaners” included, the result is Schwarzenegger 46%, Angelides 42%. The Democratic candidate has not received the post-primary bounce in support that many had expected.
For his part, Angelides — who has completed a week of TV advertising that his campaign said amounted to a million dollar buy but Schwarzenegger sources say was about $300,000 less than that — is making moves to consolidate the support of his party behind him.
The announcement of a compromise deal in the Legislature on the governance of the sprawling and long-troubled Los Angeles Unified School District will make it easier for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee to gain the backing of popular LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Angelides, who is backed by the California Teachers Association — which also participated in his independent expenditure campaign during the primary — had conspicuously not supported Villaraigosa’s LA school reform bid.
The seeming resolution of the issue will, according to informed sources, make it much easier for the Democrat Villaraigosa, a friend of Schwarzenegger, to deliver a formal endorsement of Angelides.
In addition, Angelides will meet next week with Steve Westly for the first time since their hurried party unity event the morning after the June 6th primary. The two primary rivals will discuss Westly’s role in the general election campaign.
** The California Republican Party will tomorrow launch a major TV ad campaign criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides for his advocacy of tax increases. Let us say, Steve Westly rides again.
** Here is audio of Governor Schwarzenegger’s remarks to the American Legion convention in Fresno. As should not surprise you, he was a hit with the veterans. He said that he wanted to be an action star like John Wayne, naturally, and Kirk Douglas (father of LA Weekly co-founder Michael Douglas), new to me. “It is the soldier who provides the freedom of speech, not the journalist.” Hmm, do we like that line?
** Here is a link to the text of Phil Angelides’ American Legion remarks. In them, he unveils a plan to help National Guard members who have been suffering under heavy deployment schedules in the post-9/11 era.
** SAYS POOCHIGIAN SENIOR CONSULTANT KEVIN SPILLANE: “A hysterical Jerry Brown today attacked his opponent, Senator Chuck Poochigian, in what has to qualify as the lamest attempted hit of this political season. Brown, engaging in his typical hyperbole, claimed that Poochigian had “bitterly attacked” and made “false accusations” against the Fresno Police Officers Association.
“Brown released a very brief excerpt from a radio interview conducted with Poochigian by KMJ 580 Radio. We encourage you to read the excerpted transcript or, better yet, listen to this snippet of the interview. Please. Poochigian was responding to a question about the false claim that he had refused to meet with the union’s leadership. Does any reasonable person believe Chuck Poochigian is “bitterly attacking” police officers?
“This “statesmanlike” comment comes the week after Brown pledged he would run a positive campaign and not attack his opponent personally. It’s particularly ironic given Brown’s long record of viciously negative comments about law enforcement …”
Oh, this is going to be fun! Brown, incidentally, is also endorsed by the California Police Chiefs Association, which is not a union.
** GETTING ARRESTED. Some candidates can’t get arrested, i.e., can’t get attention. But getting arrested for real, that is never a good thing for a politician.
** BROWN DENOUNCES POOCH. Former Governor Jerry Brown hits the Republican candidate for attorney general, state Senator Chuck Poochigian, for casting aspersions on the endorsement of Brown by his hometown Fresno Police Officers Assocation: “I believe that Poochigian owes an immediate apology to the brave men and women of the Fresno Police Officers Association. Every day they put their lives on the line and patrol the streets of Fresno. That’s far different from Poochigian, who talks about crime from a well guarded chair in the California State Senate.” Listern to the Pooch radio comments here.
** Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic challenger, Treasurer Phil Angelides, both address the state convention of the American Legion today. The venerable veterans organization is meeting in Fresno. Although I am a member, since it will be 106 degrees there today, I won’t be on hand. Neither candidate is a member. Angelides has no military experience. Schwarzenegger is, however, a veteran. (No, I’m not referring to Commando, Predator, etc.) He was in the army. The Austrian Army, that is. A young tank driver, his most memorable experience was going AWOL to compete in the Mister Junior Europe contest. He was placed in the stockade upon his return. Until his superiors discovered that he had won. Some might say this is when he discovered he could be above the rules.
Yesterday turned out to be the Capitol’s day of compromise, as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa compromised with the California Teachers Association on governance of the troubled LA Unified School District, the court-appointed special master reported that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is letting the prison guards union resume its sway over the state’s troubled prison system, and several sources indicated that Schwarzenegger will let his bid to increase spending on county-run health programs that include illegal immigrant children go in order to get support for his state budget from reluctant legislative Republicans.
The prison guards union, known as the California Correction Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), is in a position to mount a much larger and far more credibly independent expenditure advertising campaign than that waged in the primary for Schwarzenegger’s Democratic challenger, Phil Angelides. That campaign was 90 percent funded by Sacramento development kingpin Angelo Tsakopoulos, who has just hosted a private fundraiser at his home for the state treasurer.
Sources say that Republicans, having backed legislative Democrats down on their plan to begin formal preparations for a $300 million a year expansion of the Healthy Families program to include illegal immigrant children, have also succeeded in persuading Schwarzenegger to back away from his and the Democrats’ plan to spend another $23 million on county-run health care programs that include illegal immigrants. Although the expansion of the existing programs has bipartisan support at the level of local elected officials, it runs counter to the current conservative Republican hard line on illegal immigration.
“The governor,” says one knowledgeable ranking Republican, “pushed for this and got his Spanish language TV commercial for the fall. Now he wants his budget before the new fiscal year.”
The court-appointed special master’s report on California’s troubled prison system is scathing. It comes on the heels of other reports that the prisons are nearing full capacity. Yet liberal Democrats, during the spring, forced the removal from Schwarzenegger’s infrastructure bonds program of proposed funding for new prison facilities.
Schwarzenegger appointed former guard Rod Hickman as his corrections secretary to reform the prison system. Hickman, an African American and a longtime weightlifter, got along well with the former Mr. Universe. But his reform efforts ran aground. Either because of his own competency, as one point of view has it, or because of a consistent strategy of interference by the prison guards union. Hickman resigned earlier this year after, on several occasions, running into prison guards union officials coming out of the office of Arnold chief of staff Susan Kennedy. He has refused several interview requests from me.
Meanwhile, another part of the prisons drama has been the prospective guards union’s campaign against Schwarzenegger’s re-election. The guards used to love Arnold. When he was running his shakedown cruise campaign — the 2002 campaign for the Proposition 49 after schools program initiative — Schwarzenegger attended the CCPOA convention and spent two-and-a-half hours signing autographs. Something which thoroughly nonplussed longtime California Democratic Party political director Bob Mulholland — now senior advisor to Angelides — who has spent more than a decade cultivating the prison guards as a source of support for the Democrats.
But, with the former action superstar threatening their influence in the prisons, something which was mostly unquestioned during the governorship of Gray Davis, CCPOA became part of the Alliance for a Better California (ABC) coalition of public employee unions out to take down the Terminator during his ill-advised 2005 “Year of Reform” special election.
The guards union spent $3 million last year, which was bad enough. This year, there has been serious talk of them spending $18 million. That is another question entirely.
Team Arnold is very alert to the possibility of Democratic independent expenditure (IE) campaigns against the governor. They think they can handle the one seen for Angelides in the primary — which proved to be the difference in his narrow victory over ex-eBay honcho Steve Westly — funded by the real estate empire of Sacramento development kingpin Angelo Tsakopoulos.
Tsakopoulos is the finance chairman of the Angelides campaign. In fact, he has just had a fundraiser at his home for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Which further rends the credibility of his independent efforts for Angelides.
There are multiple credibility problems with the Tsakopoulos funding for advertising on behalf of his decades long protégé and partner, only some of which have been reported so far.
There are fewer credibility problems with an IE by law enforcement interests such as the prison guards. If the prison guards spent $18 million, Schwarzenegger could be in trouble, even against a classic tax-and-spend liberal like Angelides. (Prison guard strategists were looking to the more moderate Westly — who did much better in polling among the all-important independent voters than Angelides — as the best champion against Schwarzenegger.)
Which explains the politics behind the special master’s report on the prisons. The politics of compromise on the budget are even clearer.
Schwarzenegger needs a timely budget to continue the appearance of his renewed bipartisan faith. Legislative Republicans have been refusing to go along so long as there is more health care funding for illegal immigrant children in the budget. Not that they are trying to remove existing funding, which would throw local elected Republicans into a tizzy.
This still leaves the governor free to sign a later bill — which will require only a majority vote — expanding funding for existing county-run health care programs. Is this a contradiction, or merely removing the politics of symbolism from the budget process?
LA’s mayor did well enough in the compromise process, although the result is much less than he had pushed for. One major lobbyist, otherwise sympathetic to Villaraigosa personally, criticized the former Assembly speaker for being unprepared for his biggest issue yet by having no bill ready to be read by anyone.
But Antonio got by, as the Beatles would have it, with a little help from his friends.
With strong support from his friend Governor Schwarzenegger, his close friend Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and fellow school reformer Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, Villaraigosa was able, after a whirlwind round of meetings in and about the Capitol, to announce a compromise deal with the California Teachers Association and United Teachers of LA over LA School District governance.
Under terms of the deal, as reported to me, a Council of Mayors would be created to oversee the sprawling, long troubled district. This council would have more influence over the district’s budget and use of facilities and conduct regular reviews of the district’s budget, though ultimate control would remain in the hands of the elected school board.
The deal would grant a major role in the process of selecting the district’s powerful superintendent, along with a veto power over the hiring of the superintendent. It would also reportedly grant greater authority to the superintendent.
It does not give Villaraigosa the level of control he sought over the school district. But it does give him very significant influence, as well as a face-saving victory when, just last week, it looked as though he was about to go down to defeat in the Legislature he once led, at the hands of the union he once worked for.
** Arnold pulls up in new Zogby poll. Dead even, not dead heat. Poll conducted online from June 13-19. Not the best test, either, although Angelides led it for the past five rounds of polling. I have results from a couple other polls. Remember, there are reasons why I think things.
** Phil Angelides slides again and contradicts himself. Speaking of which … It is now eleven weeks since the Democratic gubernatorial candidate announced that he has an “exact” plan to raise taxes on the rich and close corporate tax loopholes. It is also eleven weeks — to the day, not that anyone is counting — since he and his staff repeatedly dodged my question about what, precisely, that plan consists of. An exact plan that has, even now, yet to be revealed.
** Here is the link to LA Observed and the dismay/distress from longtime LA lib bureaucrats on the Antonio compromise deal on the LA School District.
** Conservative Republicans win on health care for illegal immigrant children.
Although it has not yet been announced, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is reportedly going to go along with members of his party who do not want additional funding for county-run children’s health care programs, which include illegal immigrant kids, notwithstanding the fact those programs have bipartisan support from local officials. Needed Republican support for the inclusion of the funding in this year’s state budget, which all major players had hoped would be on time for a change, has not been forthcoming.
** The underdog Republican candidate for state attorney general, state Senator Chuck Poochigian, hits Jerry Brown in this clever web-only TV ad. Could be curtains for the caped crusader would-be crime fighter! (To riff on the comic book language.) Okay, translation. It could be some trouble for the former California governor (elected at age 36) and current Oakland mayor. If there were megabucks behind the ad for a broadcast TV buy. But the wily Brown, a two-time Democratic presidential runner-up and favorite of Oakland cops even before he became mayor, may be getting some big Republican support of his own …
** It looks like the Clean Fuels Initiative will qualify today for California’s November ballot. The measure, put forward by Hollywood producer Steve Bing and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, would impose a $400 million a year severance tax on oil produced in California and use the proceeds to fund alternative fuels research.
** 10:20 AM UPDATE: LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is about to announce a compromise deal with the California Teachers Association and United Teachers of LA over LA School District governance. Under terms of the deal, as reported to me, a Council of Mayors would be created to oversee the sprawling, long troubled district. This council would have more influence over the district’s budget and use of facilities and conduct regular reviews of the district’s budget, though ultimate control would remain in the hands of the elected school board.
The deal would grant a major role in the process of selecting the district’s powerful superintendent, along with a veto power over the hiring of the superintendent. It would also reportedly grant greater authority to the superintendent.
Also on hand for the announcement in the Capitl are Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who played major roles in helping Villaraigosa achieve the deal, and the majority leaders of the Senate and Assembly, Gloria Romero and Dario Frommer, respectively. Romero was the mayor’s designated author of the bill needed to authorize his reform move.
** SIERRA CLUB TELLS AP IT WILL BACK PHIL ANGELIDES FOR GOVERNOR, WHILE PRAISING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER. The governor did not participate in the endorsement process, but is praised for his leadership on global warming. Angelides received most of the environmental endorsements in the recently concluded Democratic primary, though was forced to share the Sierra Club nod with narrowly defeated rival Steve Westly.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign has altered its TV advertising strategy. When Schwarzenegger, running for re-election against Democratic challenger Phil Angelides, began advertising June 9th, just three days after the primary election, it was announced as a one-week drive. But the ads are still running around the state, and Schwarzenegger sources won’t say when they will end this flight of advertising. The campaign also changed the mix of ads, moving from a very heavy rotation of an ad wittily scoring Angelides for allegedly wanting to take California “backwards” to a more even mix of a positive ad and a negative ad.
The shift in strategy comes with Angelides on the air and private polling indicating that the treasurer has not received a customary large bounce in support from his narrow June 6th Democratic primary triumph over state Controller Steve Westly.
On June 14th, Angelides went on the air with a bold million-dollar buy — most of the money he had on hand, gathered in matching contributions for the general election campaign from primary election contributors — for a seven or eight day period, according to the campaign. His ad also wittily plays off of Schwarzenegger’s attack on him. Instead of the backward-moving bird, car, skier, and walking treasurer of the Arnold spot, the Angelides ad opens with an iconic shot of a Terminator-like figure riding backwards on a motorcycle.
Schwarzenegger’s moves in extending his TV advertising buy and altering the mix of his advertising toward the positive have interesting implications for the race. His campaign strategists may feel that they have blunted the typical momentum for a freshly-minted nominee of the opposing party and are now refocused on burnishing the tarnished image of the governor, who once enjoyed a record level of popularity.
Both campaigns have been criticized for the accuracy of their advertising. For example, the Angelides ad claims Schwarzenegger caused many billions of dollars in debt for the state and cut education funding. Education spending has gone up sharply under Schwarzenegger. As the state reorganized its struggling finances, Schwarzenegger provided less money than owed under the Proposition 98 requirement that 40 percent of the expanding budget go to education as part of a deal with the education lobby, agreeing that he would “repay” the money the following year when the state budget was in better shape. He later reneged on the deal, but this year has restored the disputed funds.
With regard to the debt, that was run up under the late Gray Davis administration in short-term borrowings that Treasurer Angelides helped arrange. After his election, with the state under threat of going into receivership, Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Party removed constitutional threats to deficit bonds arranged by Davis and approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature by winning a popular vote for a bipartisan initiative.
For its part, the Schwarzenegger campaign errs in its advertising when it claims that “soaring” taxes caused the state’s economic problems in the period prior to the 2003 recall. The truth is that taxes were not soaring. Davis actually cut some business taxes as governor. He tried to raise some taxes late in his tenure, but was unsuccessful because Republicans, under the leadership of then Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte, who threatened reprisals against any pro-tax legislator, refused to go along.
Davis and the Democrats did, however, raise the car tax, technically known as the vehicle license fee. But that tax — which did much to drive Davis’s defeat in the recall election and the election of Schwarzenegger — had barely gone into effect before the Davis era abruptly ended. Right after the former action superstar was sworn in as governor in a spectacular ceremony, he went to his new office and terminated the car tax hike. Whatever effect it had on the economy, if any at all, was brief and psychological at most.
Hopefully future ads from both sides will stick strictly to the facts. There is plenty for a capable opposition researcher — or casual newspaper reader, for that matter — to find to use against each candidate.
** So, today’s first ever live Internet video Q&A for a California governor, featuring, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was an innocuous exercise, fairly interesting at times, but featuring a closing question about the governor’s favorite color. (Hint: It is neither green nor orange.) The latter allowed reporters to bestir themselves with snarkily brief blog items. And Gray Davisites to say they really did such a session first. (No, they didn’t. They didn’t have the technology back then.) I, of course, was disappointed that the question I submitted was not asked.
Here it is: “Governor, when you were riding your horse during the chase sequence in “True Lies,” how concerned were you about falling off?”
Actually, that was one of two questions I submitted. I’ll let the other one go, for now. I promise you’ll get answers from Arnold to both questions.
** Here is a take that says Democratic gubernatorial challenger Phil Angelides is in great shape.
** Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will do a first ever live Internet video question-and-answer session this morning at 10:30 AM. The event will be moderated by KXTV News 10 Sacramento political reporter Marcey Brightwell. According to Schwarzenegger aides, Brightwell will select questions submitted by the public and pose them to the former action superstar. The event can be accessed here. You can also submit your own proposed questions here.
UPDATE: Here is an audio feed of the Schwarzenegger webcast.
UPDATE: Here is a video feed of the Schwarzenegger webcast.
California’s state budget moved a step closer to resolution yesterday, as did the stand-off over the future of the Los Angeles Unified School District, as Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata held forth at the monthly luncheon of the Sacramento Press Club and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did a whirlwind round of campaigning in the state Capitol. Perata had much to say on these and other key topics, Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic challenger, Treasurer Phil Angelides, drew further apart on fiscal matters.
Perata announced what sources had suggested in this column last week, that legislative Democrats would drop their insistence that the budget include beginning funding for the expansion of the state’s Healthy Families program to include illegal immigrant children. This removes a major stumbling block. Schwarzenegger had refused to go along because, he says, the state can’t presently afford what would become a $300 million program. Legislative Republicans refused on the grounds that they oppose funding such services for illegal immigrants.
Which leaves the governor and the two parties still at loggerheads over a related issue, Schwarzenegger and the Democrats intention to expand county-run health care programs for children, which include illegal immigrants, by some $23 million. Although there is bipartisan support from local officials for this move, legislative Republicans are still opposed.
Nevertheless, Perata is optimistic that the state budget will be resolved before the end of June. In comments before his speech, he also saw progress on Villaraigosa’s bid to gain legislative support for his takeover of LA’s long troubled school system. Perata and Villaraigosa’s close ally, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, support the takeover, as does Schwarzenegger. Angelides does not support the mayoral takeover, as the California Teachers Association — one of his two biggest supporters, the other being Sacramento development kingpin Angelo Tsakopoulos — has been strongly opposed. Villaraigosa, for his part, touted as a strong contender for governor in 2010, has declined to endorse his fellow Democrat’s gubernatorial candidacy.
Villaraigosa’s bid is opposed by legislators aligned with the state’s powerful teachers unions, who hold great sway over elected school boards but less sway with mayors like Villaraigosa who have broader constituencies. Nunez and Perata worked with the LA mayor throughout the day to shore up his position and bring teachers union advocates into talks with the one-time United Teachers of Los Angeles organizer. At the end of the day, sources close to the talks said they expect a legislative compromise that will allow Villaraigosa to move forward on the issue.
Perata, who possesses a sharp wit, had other interesting insights into top issues of the year.
While Schwarzenegger and Angelides sparred long distance over health care funding and how to pay for it — Schwarzenegger cited his 11 percent increase in the Healthy Families program and promised to do more, Angelides expressed his support for a single-payer universal health care plan, neither man spelled out how they fund these ideas — Perata described the so-called “Real ID” legislation at the federal level, adopted in the wake of 9/11, as perhaps the ultimate sleeper issue of the year as states move toward implementation.
“We’ll all need to get new drivers licenses,” Perata pointed out, “and you will need to prove you exist, to document where you came from.” He described a bureaucratic nightmare that he said “could lead to the biggest act of civil disobedience in the country.”
“I’ve encouraged Arnold to go back to Washington and make a big deal of this with the president, whatever his relationship is with the president,” quipped the Senate leader.
“I’m encouraging the governor, after the election, let’s get on the G4 (Schwarzenegger’s Gulfstream jet),” he said, “and concentrate on this issue back in Washington.”
Perata is also concerned about the bipartisan infrastructure bonds package on the November ballot. Not because of problems with the package per se, as he said before his speech, but because of evident voter skepticism about big-ticket spending programs made obvious by the overwhelming defeat of the Proposition 82 tax-the-rich preschool initiative and an innocuous library bonds initiative on the June ballot.
“In Southern California, in a place where they call a cement culvert a river, we may be facing a problem,” he noted wryly.
“More seriously, the bonds won’t be successful if they are politician-driven. It must be evident that lives will be demonstrably improved” by these measures. That was something unclear about the library bonds and the controversial preschool tax hike measure.
In addition, Perata pointed out, the November ballot will be cluttered with consequential issues besides the infrastructure package. “There will be a parcel tax, and eminent domain — watch people try to figure that one out — there will be a water bond, a cigarette tax for health care. And something called an extraction tax. I’d like to hear how we tax oil companies and they don’t tax you.”
And yet another stab at campaign finance reform. “The clean money initiative. I’m going to read it (the latest reform initiative) this time. I just like the (political) commercials myself,” he commented dryly, about the election process.