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Shriver Wields Growing Influence

California's first lady emerges as a powerful partner with her governor husband. 'Arnold and I are a team,' she says.

April 29, 2004|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

She interviews job applicants, giving out written assignments in some cases: come back with a list of the 10 things the governor would need to do in his first 100 days in office.

After leaving the interview, "a couple [of applicants] were confused as to whether they'd be working for Arnold or her. They weren't sure exactly," said one person familiar with the workings of the administration.

Attuned to the Capitol pecking order, Shriver has courted players in both the Assembly and Senate. She is sending a copy of a new biography of her father to all 120 members of the Legislature. She's diligently befriended the cantankerous Senate Democratic leader, John Burton (D-San Francisco). She gave Burton's grandson two of her children's books. In conversations with Burton, she jokingly calls herself "First Babe."

And she cautions the notoriously profane Senate leader not to swear around her 82-year-old mother. He loves it.

As a Democrat in a Republican administration, Shriver is stepping carefully to deliver a message that squares with her husband's.

She says that despite a friendship with Teresa Heinz Kerry, she won't campaign for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry -- a move that could embarrass her husband.

When Schwarzenegger leaves office, Shriver said she'll be ready. She recalls her father's defeat in 1972, when Sargent Shriver ran for vice president on the ticket with George McGovern.

"I'll never forget when my dad lost.... We drove home from the hotel. All the Secret Service were unplugging the phones from the trailers. The picture is very fresh in my mind. So I'm aware that all of this is fleeting."

Times staff writer Virginia Ellis contributed to this report.

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