Democrats take inventory

first_imgSACRAMENTO – From afar, Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly appeared to get a big boost out of the closing days of the special election. The two declared Democratic candidates for governor were busy last weekend courting the voter base, getting lots of TV time and vigorously denouncing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ballot agenda. But a closer look showed much of the spotlight went instead to two other Democrats who also were out on the campaign trail last week – Hollywood stars Warren Beatty and Rob Reiner, neither of whom have said they want to run for governor. Still, some Democrats think they might have a better shot next year with either Beatty or Reiner as the party’s challenger to Schwarzenegger. That said, Schwarzenegger has never appeared to be more vulnerable. A year ago, the governor enjoyed approval of 60 percent of Californians; today – thanks to his disastrous special-election agenda – Schwarzenegger’s rating is down to the mid-30s. Pundits like Cerrell said it would still be dangerous for Democrats to underestimate Schwarzenegger. But so far, both Reiner and Beatty said they are not interested in running. Beatty said in a phone interview last week that his participation in the special election campaign came from a sense of civic duty. “It would be a mistake to attribute political activism to careerism,” he said. “I’ve said it over and over, I don’t want to have to run for governor.” The Hollywood actor and director said he did not believe there was any need for him to throw his hat into the ring. “There are very good people running,” he said. “Angelides and Westly are very capable.” The circumstances under which he might change his mind, he said, are extremely unlikely. Meanwhile, Reiner is focused on passing an initiative on the June ballot that would provide universal preschool in California, said Chad Griffin, Reiner’s political consultant – not running for governor. Supporters of Westly and Angelides dismissed the notion that either Reiner or Beatty would be stronger candidates. “I think Beatty and Reiner did a terrific job in the special election and I’m glad they were there,” said Garry South, a senior adviser to Westly. “I do not believe from there flows the notion that either one runs for governor.” South said next year’s election will be the first time a gubernatorial campaign will be completely run under campaign fund-raising limits. He said anyone thinking of joining the race now will be at a big disadvantage in fund- raising or be forced to spend their own money, which is not restricted. Both Angelides and Westly, for instance, had raised more than $13 million as of July 1. Dan Newman, a spokesman for Angelides, would not comment directly about a challenge from Beatty or Reiner, but noted they were all on the same side during last week’s special election. A recent Field Poll showed that while most voters do not support another term for Schwarzenegger, they also seemed unenthusiastic about the four possible Democratic challengers. The poll found that both Angelides and Westly held a 6 percentage point margin over the governor; Reiner was favor by 2 percentage points and voters gave Schwarzenegger a slight edge over Beatty. But Ken Khachigian, a longtime GOP strategist and Orange County attorney, said he does not believe any of the Democrats can defeat the governor. He said Angelides has a history of being too partisan and Westly lacks sizzle. He said Reiner is too liberal and Beatty lacks polish in public settings. “What they’d love to do is have (U.S. Sen.) Dianne Feinstein run,” he said. “She fits their mold of someone who has created status in the Senate and is probably viewed as not having the baggage of the other four.” Veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said he does not think members of his party are unhappy with Westly and Angelides. “The focus during the special election has been on the initiatives and I don’t think people are thinking about candidates,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence that they are unhappy with the candidates. What Democrats have shown is that they are angry with Arnold.” One other name that is bound to come up in the coming months is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Some believe that Villaraigosa, the first Hispanic mayor in Los Angeles in more than a century, could be the strongest Democratic candidate because of the diverse groups that supported his mayoral campaign. The mayor has said that he is also not interested. Sragow said Villaraigosa might one day be ready to run for governor but not now. “He knows he needs more than 140 days of being great as Los Angeles mayor before he takes on the job of being governor of California,” he said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “We want to win,” said Joe Cerrell, a longtime Democratic consultant based in Los Angeles. “Can Westly or Angelides eliminate the Terminator? I’m not sure. I’m not sure Beatty or Reiner can either, but I’ll tell you this much: We won’t need to spend as much money on name ID when it comes to Dick Tracy and the Meathead.” Darry Sragow, a former strategist for the Assembly Democratic Caucus, agreed. “Angelides and Westly are not household names, they are not well-defined,” he said. “In the course of running for governor, they are both going to have to grow in order to win.” Still, both Sragow and Cerrell said they knew of no campaign to recruit another candidate. While the Democratic primary is still seven months away, time is growing short for another candidate to jump into the race. Not only would a statewide team need to be assembled, but money to fund the effort would also need to be raised, all while the other two candidates are in campaign mode. last_img

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