- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a wide lead over state Treasurer Phil Angelides, his Democratic re-election challenger who said Friday that, if elected, he would sign a bill to grant marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, an actor who became governor after a circuslike recall election in 2003, leads Mr. Angelides 44 percent to 37 percent in a statewide poll taken the last week of June. The poll showed 14 percent of voters were undecided, while 5 percent of those surveyed wanted a different candidate.

It is unknown whether marriage will be a defining issue in a race that is four months away, but Mr. Angelides is not shying away from the topic.

“I would sign the marriage-equality bill because I believe if we can get behind people to build a lasting relationship, that is a good thing,” Mr. Angelides told reporters at a press conference in San Francisco.

The New York State Court of Appeals last week issued a ruling that said: “Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the legislature.”

California’s Democrat-controlled Assembly passed a measure last year that would have legalized same-sex unions. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed the bill, saying the matter should be decided either by voters or by the courts.

Marriage has been a hot topic in California since February 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked the nation by allowing 4,200 same-sex couples to “marry.” A state court later voided the licenses.

Mr. Newsom said Friday that he is backing Mr. Angelides.

National Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, also are supporting Mr. Angelides as he fights for one of the country’s most important gubernatorial seats.

“We are all here for the same reason: We think Phil Angelides would be a great governor for California,” Mrs. Clinton said Friday in San Francisco after a $1,000-per-plate fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel.

The former first lady said Mr. Angelides helped her husband become president in 1992, when Mr. Angelides was the leader of the state Democratic Party.

“He brought passion and commitment to a campaign that was on an uphill side,” she said.

Mr. Angelides, who bested state Controller Steve Westly last month after an ugly Democratic primary battle, received his former opponent’s endorsement Friday. Mr. Angelides said the race provides “the clearest choice in a generation for Californians: a choice between the Bush-Schwarzenegger agenda of diminished opportunity, and a new agenda.”

Others agreed, and promised the Democrat steady help throughout the campaign.

“Phil may not be a bodybuilder but he’s a builder of dreams,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, referring to one of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s pre-politics careers.

The survey of 900 Californians showing the governor leading the Democrat by seven percentage points was conducted by San Jose State University’s Survey and Policy Research Institute. It had a margin of error of four percentage points. In March, Mr. Schwarzenegger held a three-point lead over Mr. Angelides in the same poll.

Pollsters said those surveyed were encouraged by Mr. Schwarzenegger’s move to send some National Guard troops to the border as immigration battles heat up in Washington.

The governor has “begun to reclaim the middle-of-the road voters who are crucial to statewide elections,” the pollsters said.

However Mr. Schwarzenegger’s once high approval rating has not climbed above 50 percent since March. The June poll showed that he has a 43 percent favorable rating.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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