- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Two Democrats have spent millions of their own money competing for the right to challenge Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fall.

With less than a week remaining until Tuesday’s California gubernatorial primary, state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly have spent a combined $60 million on their race, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Angelides, the Democratic front-runner, has reportedly spent over $20 million on his own race. By some estimates, Mr. Westly has spent more than $34 million of his personal fortune so far on his campaign.

Mr. Westly “was like a beauty pageant model for Miss California,” Angelides senior campaign adviser Bob Mulholland says. “And then he started to panic. It has never worked in a California campaign, and it isn’t working here.”

A poll released by the Los Angeles Times last week shows Mr. Angelides leading Mr. Westly by 3 percentage points, 37 percent to 34 percent. However, the lead is within the poll’s statistical margin of error, and a full 28 percent of Democratic primary voters say they are still undecided heading into the final week of campaigning.

The Schwarzenegger campaign publicly says it does not have a preference of which Democrat the governor will face in the fall, though some Republicans say Mr. Angelides would be easier to defeat.

The rival Democrats “are two sides of the same coin,” said Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman Matt David. “Both have a history of supporting higher taxes and would take California back to the days of financial crisis.”

Mr. Westly, a former schoolteacher who supports charter schools, has attempted to portray himself as the more centrist of the two candidates,

However, Mr. Angelides has won the endorsements of the state Democratic Party, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both of the state’s U.S. senators and the California Teachers Association.

Mr. Mulholland said the endorsements have been the “key” in Mr. Angelides’ comeback.

The National Organization for Women, the state chapter of the Sierra Club and a number of local elected officials have endorsed Mr. Westly.

Both candidates support Proposition 82, the “Preschool for All” initiative sponsored by actor and political activist Rob Reiner. That measure would raise taxes on California’s upper-income earners by 1.7 percentage points to help subsidize state preschool programs.

A recent editorial in the Orange County Register criticized both Democrats for their support of the bill, saying the tax would “discourage investment and job creation.”

If Mr. Angelides does win the Democratic primary next week, Mr. Mulholland made it clear the campaign will attempt to tie Mr. Schwarzenegger to President Bush.

Mr. Bush lost California in both 2000 and 2004 and has alienated many conservatives with his immigration proposals. The administration’s sagging poll numbers make the president a campaign liability for Mr. Schwarzenegger and other Republicans in the off-year election.

“Californians and Americans in general want a new direction away from the Bush/Schwarzenegger policies,” Mr. Mulholland said.

However, a senior aide to Mr. Schwarzenegger pointed out that while the governor has agreed with Mr. Bush on certain causes, he has also “stood up to the president on a number of substantive issues.”

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