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State GOP Gets Same Message Twice

Rivals Schwarzenegger and McClintock appeal for party unity, but dissent still surfaces.

September 14, 2003|Mark Z. Barabak, Michael Finnegan and Matea Gold | Times Staff Writers

As party leaders strained for a veneer of unity, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock squared off Saturday at the state Republican convention to deliver identical messages hours apart.

Their pitch: Choose me to give the GOP the best chance to recall the governor and defeat Cruz Bustamante.

"Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided?" Schwarzenegger asked during a luncheon speech to hundreds of delegates gathered in the basement ballroom of an LAX hotel. "Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles, or let the liberals win because we are split?"

A few hours later, appearing at a news conference before a dinner speech to delegates, state Sen. McClintock of Thousand Oaks answered Schwarzenegger's suggestion by saying that he had no intention of quitting the race and expected it would soon narrow to a contest between himself and Bustamante, the Democratic lieutenant governor.

"This is no time for amateurs," McClintock said. "We've got to have a governor that knows every inch of this government and is ready to act immediately."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday September 15, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Proposition 54 -- Two stories, on Sept. 4 and Sept. 14, mischaracterized the breadth of Proposition 54, saying the measure would prevent the state from gathering data on race. The measure would bar the state from gathering some, but not all, racial data.

Later, speaking to delegates at dinner, he repeated his refusal to bow out: "You know me. You know that I steer a straight course, and I will stay that course, no matter what the pressure."

The weekend convention, meant to energize the party's most loyal activists, instead featured a version of political chicken, each man wanting the other to exit the race and allow a one-on-one contest with Bustamante, the sole major Democrat running in the Oct. 7 election.

Neither is budging, despite pressure on the more conservative McClintock to smooth the way for Schwarzenegger, who leads the GOP contest in money, polls and -- judging from hawkers around the convention hall -- merchandising opportunities.

Despite increased antagonism between backers of the two rivals, party leaders moved to present at least an appearance of unity. There was no endorsement of either candidate -- convention bylaws forbade it -- and the party chairman who presided over the public sessions, Duf Sundheim, kept his remarks focused on removing Gov. Gray Davis and expanding the party's appeal to women and members of minority groups.

A debate that McClintock had sought failed to come off when Schwarzenegger refused to participate. The actor also declined the convention custom of holding a news conference with reporters covering the campaign.

Despite the efforts at harmony, however, dissent still bubbled to the surface.

Assemblyman Ray Haynes of Murietta, a conservative stalwart, announced his endorsement of Schwarzenegger and took issue with McClintock's jibe that the actor was an "amateur." McClintock had made the comment while criticizing his opponent's refusal to detail specific budget cuts before a post-election audit.

"Government's not rocket science, to be real blunt," Haynes said. "It doesn't take a whole lot of time to figure out what's going on." He called McClintock "the North Star" of conservatives, but said the state senator could not win. "Tom is a friend of mind, but Tom is not a consensus builder," Haynes said.

About three dozen anti-abortion demonstrators picketed outside the convention hotel. Among them were McClintock supporters carrying signs that read "Conan the Coward" -- a reference to an early Schwarzenegger movie role -- and "Oui on recall, no on Arnold" -- a reference to a sexually explicit interview that the actor gave to a men's magazine in the 1970s.

For his part, the actor-turned-candidate never uttered McClintock's name during two convention appearances, a morning rally with supporters and his luncheon address. Instead, the actor touted his Republican bona fides by embracing two of the party's most enduring orthodoxies -- tax cutting and anti-communism.

"I'm a Republican because Milton Friedman is right and Karl Marx is wrong," Schwarzenegger said. "I'm a conservative because I believe in a balanced budget, not in budget deficits. I'm a conservative because I believe money that people earn is their money, not the government's money."

Schwarzenegger also took on Davis' recent signing of legislation allowing the issuing of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. "When you look at this driver's license outrage," he said, "I'm a conservative because I believe in the rule of law, not in political pandering."

His first day as governor, Schwarzenegger said, he "will take this Davis driver's license law and I will terminate it. I'll go to the Legislature for repeal, and if they refuse to act swiftly, I will take my case to the people and we will overturn it ourselves."

He also promised to overturn the recent tripling of the vehicle license fee -- or car tax -- but failed to say how he would plug the $4-billion hole that would open in the precariously balanced state budget.

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