- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

Frustration with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leftward tilt finally bubbled over last week as conservative activists warned him to terminate his new Democratic chief of staff or risk losing the state party’s endorsement.

The burgeoning Republican insurgency met yesterday in Palm Springs to discuss a resolution to be introduced next month at the state party convention in San Jose. The resolution demands that the governor fire Susan Kennedy, his newly appointed chief of staff, by March 15 or the party will withdraw its support for his 2006 re-election effort.

“We’re hoping to get his attention because he’s on the wrong path to get re-elected,” said Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, which is leading the resolution drive. “Conservatives are going to sit on their hands come November if he doesn’t get on the right track.”

The California Republican Party formally endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s re-election bid by acclamation at its September convention.

At a press conference Friday to rally support for his proposed $222 billion infrastructure bond measure, Mr. Schwarzenegger appeared unconcerned about the possibility of a convention floor fight.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I have no problem about that, and this is not my No. 1 priority. My No. 1 priority is to govern California, and we’re going to move forward with our infrastructure package and with our strategic growth plan and let them sort out the problems themselves.”

The liberal views of the bodybuilder-turned-movie star on social issues such as homosexual rights and abortion were well-known when he replaced Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in the 2003 recall election, but he won over Republican voters with his commitment to fiscal responsibility and budget reform.

Conservatives bit their tongues at the governor’s occasional political faux pas during his first year and were rewarded when he threw his support behind a slate of 2005 ballot measures aimed at weakening the state’s powerful unions and imposing spending limits on the Democratic legislature.

When the measures were defeated in November, however, Mr. Schwarzenegger stunned Republican activists by apologizing for the special election.

“In less than a month’s time, the governor appointed Susan Kennedy … introduced a mega-bond more expensive than even Democrats could have imagined and submitted a budget proposal that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office warns ‘moves the state in the wrong direction,’” said Karen Hanretty, a Republican strategist who served as Mr. Schwarzenegger’s spokeswoman during the 2003 campaign.

Any good will earned during the election since has vanished.

“Since that time, he’s betrayed everyone who worked for him on that election,” Mr. Spence said.

However, Sarah Pompei, California Republican Party spokeswoman, said the party faithful would be unlikely to pull the governor’s endorsement in the Feb. 24-26 convention.

“Since the governor was elected in 2003, he and some Republicans haven’t always seen eye to eye, but they agree more often than they disagree,” Miss Pompei said. “It’s doubtful members of the party would vote to rescind his endorsement.”

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