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Governor to Help Jones in Race

Schwarzenegger will headline some fundraisers and be in some ads in the effort to unseat Sen. Boxer. No schedule is set yet.

June 05, 2004|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — The big-money question of the campaign for California's U.S. Senate seat -- whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will spend some of his political capital supporting Republican challenger Bill Jones -- has been answered. Sort of.

Jones told GOP supporters here this week that Schwarzenegger had agreed to headline an unspecified number of fundraisers for him and to be included in campaign advertising, which the governor's office confirmed. But Jones' senior strategist, Sean Walsh, said details -- such as a schedule for the events -- had not yet been discussed by the campaign and the governor's aides. Jones is seeking to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

"It's a start," said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst tracking Senate campaigns for the Washington-based Cook Political Report. "Right now [Jones] needs a big push. Whether Schwarzenegger can create that momentum for him and that buzz, we're not really sure, because he's not really tried to do it before. But for the Jones campaign, this is probably a very welcome piece of news."

Jones mentioned Schwarzenegger's pledge to help during an appearance earlier this week before 75 members of the South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition, who gathered in a patio garden of the upscale Stanford Park Hotel in Palo Alto in what is generally considered Boxer country: the Bay Area.

"He will be doing events, fundraisers, coming up fairly soon. We are scheduling as we speak," Jones said. "I have mail and television in the can today with him."

But voters won't see the ads any time soon, in part because Jones doesn't have the money for a lengthy advertising campaign in California's expensive television markets.

"It's hard to sustain it in this state for five months," he said. "It's just too expensive."

With help from Schwarzenegger, Jones won the March primary for the right to challenge Boxer. But he emerged with $224,000 in cash in the bank and a $200,000 debt to himself, which left his campaign essentially broke, while Boxer had nearly $6 million in the bank.

Her staff has estimated that her campaign will raise and spend up to $25 million. Jones' aides have said he will raise up to $20 million, a figure he has backed away from, saying he will raise enough money to compete. Both campaigns have been holding regular fundraisers, though how successful they've been won't be known until federal financial reports are filed after June 30.

The biggest-ticket fundraisers for both candidates are yet to come. As Jones plans events with Schwarzenegger, Boxer has scheduled a June 27 event with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), a popular draw among Democrats. Clinton will headline the Los Angeles fundraiser, part of a two-day stint of Boxer money raising that will include neighborhood barbecues.

How much sway the governor might have on the Senate election will be watched closely by political analysts seeking to understand whether his victory in the recall election signified a statewide rise for Republicans or was a personality-driven aberration.

Two recent polls, one by The Times and the other by the Field Research Corp., have each shown Boxer about 20 percentage points ahead of Jones among eligible voters and have indicated that many voters know little about the challenger.

The Times poll found that four out of five eligible voters said they would not back Jones simply because Schwarzenegger did. But any involvement by the popular Republican governor would help Jones in two ways: by providing an increase in sorely needed cash and a potentially elevated public profile.

"That doesn't mean that in terms of political support that Schwarzenegger can lay his hands on Jones and ignite the Jones candidacy," said USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. "But you can't underestimate the positive impact on Jones' candidacy from an influx of money.... And the focus of the media on the governor when he stands next to Bill Jones is going to be on Bill Jones too."

Jones, a former two-term California secretary of state, received Schwarzenegger's endorsement in the Senate primary despite wide differences between the two on issues including abortion and gun control.

The endorsement was seen as a payback for Jones' early support of the governor's candidacy in the recall election.

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