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Gov. Seeks Support of Democrats

Schwarzenegger targets Bay Area in campaign for Props. 57, 58. GOP Senate hopefuls stump.

March 01, 2004|Joe Mathews, Jean O. Pasco and Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writers

SAN JOSE — California's Republican governor focused increasingly on winning the votes of Democrats as his campaign for twin initiatives on Tuesday's ballot drew toward a close Sunday.

Meantime, two of the four major candidates for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate stumped hard for support -- former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin in Orange County and former Secretary of State Bill Jones in Sacramento.

A third GOP Senate nomination contender, former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian of San Marcos, kept his campaigning Sunday to a single evening radio interview with KSFO-AM in San Francisco. And former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey took the weekend off from appearances while her campaign telephoned voters.

As Tuesday's election has grown closer, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's bid to pass Propositions 57 and 58 -- the centerpieces of his plan to eliminate the state's budget deficit -- has focused increasingly on winning the votes of Democrats, particularly those in the Bay Area, where he spent Sunday.

Schwarzenegger completed a two-day swing through the state to promote the propositions by stopping at a rally inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose that would have been fit for the most Democratic partisan.

As the Republican governor spoke, much of the Bay Area's Democratic establishment stood behind him in support of 57 and 58: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Democratic Secretary of State Kevin Shelley; regional representatives from La Raza and the NAACP; and liberal lions such as United Farm Workers activist Dolores Huerta. The governor was even introduced by state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), who has helped nurture generations of Democratic politicians here.

"I have never been surrounded by this many Democrats since the last time I had dinner with the Kennedys in Hyannisport," Schwarzenegger told a crowd of about 150 at the library. "It's unbelievable. What's going on here?"

The answer, of course, is a political campaign in which Schwarzenegger's strategists believe they need more Democratic votes.

Proposition 57 would authorize the state to borrow up to $15 billion to refinance the last three years of accumulated budget deficits and provide some cash for expenses in the next budget year. Recent public opinion polls gauge the proposition's support at just above 50% -- ahead, but not yet comfortably so. The proposition remains behind among Democratic voters, the polls have shown.

Its companion measure, Proposition 58, an amendment to the state Constitution that would require the Legislature to pass a balanced budget and would establish a reserve fund, has a more secure lead, the polls have indicated.

During the recall campaign, Schwarzenegger steered clear of the Bay Area -- as most Republicans do during statewide campaigns. He held just two events in the heavily Democratic part of the state during the 60-day campaign. But after seeing Proposition 57's low poll numbers among Democrats, Schwarzenegger asked Democratic political consultant Darry Sragow to join the 57-58 campaign; named state Controller Steve Westly, a Democrat from San Jose, as co-chairman of the effort; and began appearing frequently in this part of the state.

Last week, Westly and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom hosted an event in support of 57 and 58, and First Lady Maria Shriver stumped for the measures with state Senate President Pro Tem John L. Burton (D-San Francisco) at the Presidio.

The campaign even produced a 30-second advertisement, starring Feinstein, exclusively for the Bay Area media market. (A 15-second version has appeared statewide). Schwarzenegger also has developed increasingly close ties to some of the political elite of the Bay Area. The governor has developed a close friendship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. He seeks political advice from former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and his wife, Charlotte, the city of San Francisco's head of protocol.

Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans, hoping to gain their party's U.S. Senate nomination, took more partisan approaches Sunday, taking shots at the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Marin found a convert from Boxer in Carrie Zimmerman of Stanton, who waited patiently at the Orange County Fairgrounds for the former U.S. treasurer to sign a $2 bill.

She's a Republican who voted for Boxer twice because "she never had the right adversary," said Zimmerman, who works for an aerospace company. "I didn't think the others could do as good a job. But I think Rosario is the one who can come in and really do better for California."

The exchange at the Orange County Market Place, a massive outdoor swap meet, seemed to energize Marin, who, despite voter interest, has lagged in every opinion survey on the race.

"You'd better vote for me," she cajoled another supporter as the line grew with adults and children waving loose bills. "If I lose by one vote, it's going to be your fault."

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