- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received two pieces of welcome news from Tuesday’s primary: voters chose the Democrat widely considered the weaker candidate to face him this fall, and they defeated rival Rob Reiner’s preschool-funding bill.

“Schwarzenegger has been criticized for wavering on some issues, but not taxes,” said Mike Memoli of the National Journal Hotline. “So running against a Democrat who’s made tax increases a central part of his platform is clearly something his campaign looks forward to.”

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, viewed as the more liberal candidate in the Democratic primary, defeated state Controller Steve Westly 48 percent to 44 percent. His campaign spokesman, Bob Mulholland, has made it clear his intention to connect Mr. Schwarzenegger with President Bush’s low job-approval ratings.

But Mr. Memoli said the Schwarzenegger team, filled with many former White House operatives, sees the Angelides nomination as a chance to turn the tables.

“It gives a team of Bush vets the chance to re-create John Kerry in a sense,” Mr. Memoli said.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times Field Poll, Mr. Schwarzenegger has a seven point advantage over Mr. Angelides among likely voters. The governor only had a two point lead when matched against Mr. Westly.

Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Matt David said general election voters have a choice between a governor with a “bold” vision versus the Mr. Angelides’ “anger, partisanship and failed policies of the past.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Reiner’s 1.7 percentage-point tax increase to fund universal preschool was defeated by voters 61 percent to 39 percent. Most forecasters had predicted it would pass.

“Even in a supposedly left-leaning state, Rob Reiner’s ballot initiative to raise taxes for universal preschool was defeated pretty handily,” Mr. Memoli said.

Although Mr. Angelides and Mr. Westly made public offerings of peace after their bitter primary battle, not everyone was on board.

“When it comes to Angelides, it would be hard to single out his biggest liability, because he’s a walking Achilles heel,” Westly campaign strategist Garry South told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Arnold and his Karl Rove-trained wrecking crew will tear the guy apart, atom by atom … he won’t know what hit him.”

The primary battle between Mr. Angelides and Mr. Westly was both a costly and heated exchange. Although both candidates spent millions on the race, turnout was much lower than in previous primary elections.

“Tuesday’s historically low voter turnout in the Democratic primary demonstrates that voters were turned off by Angelides’ negative, partisan attacks and proposals to raise taxes on hardworking Californians,” Mr. David said.

Elsewhere in California, incumbent Republican Richard W. Pombo faced a strong challenge from former Rep. Pete McCloskey, but still won their Republican primary 62 percent to 32 percent. Mr. Pombo will face his 2004 opponent, Jerry McNerney. Mr. McNerney won his Democratic primary race against former Navy pilot Steve Filson 52 percent to 29 percent.

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