- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

California Democrats are portraying their gubernatorial candidate, Treasurer Phil Angelides, as “a leader, not an actor” as they try to unseat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this fall.

The former action blockbuster star says that kind of message didn’t work against Ronald Reagan, an actor-turned-politician, when the Republican ran for California governor in 1966.

“It should come as no surprise that an ad touting Phil Angelides’ backward-looking policies would use a 40-year-old campaign slogan,” said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Katie Levinson.

The two campaigns have sparred over the environment, taxes and stem-cell research in recent weeks as the state parties launched television ads to try to influence undecided voters.

A Zogby poll released yesterday showed Mr. Angelides would win the election with 44 percent to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s 42 percent if it were held today. The poll was conducted last week. The Democrat’s lead is within the 3.5 percentage point margin of error, but it is the first time he has bested the governor.

Other statewide polls had Mr. Schwarzenegger with a healthy lead over his challenger, who beat state Controller Steve Westly in a June Democratic primary.

The Republicans have used some of Mr. Westly’s harsher words from the primary against Mr. Angelides, even though Mr. Westly has endorsed his former opponent. One ad portrays Mr. Angelides, who has been treasurer since 1998, as a liberal who would raise states taxes by the billions.

Mr. Angelides paints Mr. Schwarzenegger as too closely tied to President Bush and as hurting the state. “I’ll get California moving in the right direction,” Mr. Angelides said.

The governor counters in his ads: “Tomorrow is going to be better than today for Californians.”

Most of the Schwarzenegger and state Republican ads feature video footage of Mr. Angelides run in reverse and say he would set back the progress made under the Republican governor, who won his seat during the October 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis. The spots call Mr. Schwarzenegger an environmental leader who has “brought Democrats and Republicans together.”

One Angelides ad mocks the governor with shots of people trying to lift heavy barbells and saying Mr. Schwarzenegger has burdened voters with “billions of dollars in debt for our children” and is making them do the “heavy lifting” by giving tax breaks to millionaires and corporations.

Republicans say it’s easy for Mr. Angelides to hit Mr. Schwarzenegger on his acting career and his work as a bodybuilder, but Democrats say the governor brought the ridicule on himself by calling Democratic legislators “girlie men” when they blocked his budget in 2004.

In that same speech, after using the line from a spoof on his bodybuilding career, Mr. Schwarzenegger evoked his most famed role in the “Terminator” series, saying the election would be “judgment day” for those lawmakers. Long before that, he had earned the nickname “The Governator.”

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