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Acting as if It's in the Bag

Six days before the vote, Schwarzenegger touts a plan for his first 100 days in office. His governor-elect tone infuriates Davis aides.

October 02, 2003|Joe Mathews and Gregg Jones | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — All but declaring himself California's next governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday triumphantly announced a 10-step plan for his first 100 days in office and declared that if legislators don't follow his lead, he'll seek approval for his proposals through the initiative process.

"I am not here today to talk about campaigning," Schwarzenegger, hoarse from the campaign, told an audience of several hundred local Republicans at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium. "I'm here today to talk about governing."

Schwarzenegger's speech lasted just 12 minutes and his plan ran to just one page of paper, but it was significant for its tone and purpose -- compiling the disparate proposals of his campaign into one speech and presenting it under the mantle of a presumed governor-elect.

Not surprisingly, the speech infuriated aides to Gov. Gray Davis, who said it was presumptuous for Schwarzenegger to be looking beyond next Tuesday's election.

"I think it is profoundly disrespectful to the people of California to be measuring the drapes at the Capitol before voters have had a chance to make a decision," said Peter Ragone, communications director for the Davis campaign. "You don't take a victory lap a week before the election."

Davis spent the day campaigning for the votes of Democrats and independents whose support is essential for him to stand a chance of retaining his office.

In a speech at Ventura County's Ahmanson Ranch, which a state agency is buying to stave off development, the governor repeatedly reminded listeners that former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and many of his appointees are advising Schwarzenegger.

"I'm going to spend the remaining six days having a conversation with Democrats and independents," Davis said, "telling them why I think the values I believe -- protecting the environment, protecting workers, protecting workplace safety, growing our economy, providing resources for public safety in the state -- are the values that resonate with Californians.

"I hope and believe they'll rally around our cause, believing a recall is not in their best interests and not wanting to see the governor's office turned over to Mr. Schwarzenegger and the recycled Wilson team."

Both the governor and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante campaigned separately with retired Gen. Wesley Clark, now a Democratic candidate for president. Both sought to downplay recent polls, including a Times poll, showing Davis trailing in his bid to beat the recall and Schwarzenegger leading both Bustamante and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks).

For his part, McClintock admitted to being frustrated by the polls, which paradoxically show that voters widely admire him, even as most say they won't vote for him. While he promised to keep fighting in the remaining days of the campaign, there was an air of resignation in some of his remarks, as when he said that he would work diligently with Schwarzenegger should the actor prevail.

"I will support him to the hilt," McClintock said. "There's not personal animosity; I actually personally like the guy. But I am very skeptical of the team he has surrounded himself with."

From a 135-candidate free-for-all a month ago, the campaign to recall and replace Davis has pared itself down to a simple contest in its final days. The Davis campaign presents it as one of Davis vs. Schwarzenegger. Increasingly, the Schwarzenegger campaign is trying to frame it as a foregone conclusion.

The staging of Wednesday's event in Sacramento reinforced this impression. Rather than stand in front of a "Join Arnold" banner, as he has been doing in campaign events, Schwarzenegger stood in front of a row of palm trees -- creating an iconic image of California, albeit one somewhat out of place in the Sacramento auditorium.

"We are ready to take office," Schwarzenegger said in the conclusion to his speech. "We are ready to take action. We are ready to return California to the people."

Inside the campaign, conversation has begun to turn to the transition. Schwarzenegger's economic team has stepped up the pace of its meetings, and a team led by a Stanford economist is ready to roll out plans for restructuring the state's debt, aides said.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan would work on education issues during the transition, and former Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon Jr. would be involved in economic issues, campaign officials and other Republicans said. Both spoke at the auditorium before Schwarzenegger's speech.

Aides, while careful to note they "aren't popping champagne yet," are discussing what a Schwarzenegger staff may look like. Campaign co-manager Bob White and other top officials are likely to stay on to lead a transition, but Schwarzenegger, a politician for just eight weeks, does not have a longtime cadre of political aides on which to draw for a gubernatorial staff.

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