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Governor Lends Jones Star Power

Schwarzenegger is to be the guest of honor at a fund-raiser next week for U.S. Senate hopeful.

September 08, 2004|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Keeping a springtime promise, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will help Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones raise money next week, his first direct involvement in the California campaign since Schwarzenegger spoke at a private Jones fund-raiser before the March primary.

Schwarzenegger will be the guest of honor at a Jones fund-raiser Tuesday at the Beverly Hilton that Jones' campaign hopes will draw an infusion of cash -- and voter interest.

"Clearly he is the preeminent political force in California," Jones said Tuesday. "Consequently, his initial endorsement of us and his support has been material to our success. It will continue to be so."

Jones said support from Schwarzenegger, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the White House -- Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at a fund-raiser last month -- are "pieces" of a game plan that Jones hopes will topple incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

"This is doable," Jones said. "The governor's support is critical."

Though invitations for the event began going out last week, the governor's press office and Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director, both said Friday that the governor had scheduled no events on Jones' behalf. Stutzman said Tuesday that he had been mistaken.

What effect Schwarzenegger's involvement will have on Jones' campaign has been one of the key questions in the election. Jones has been running as much as 15 points behind Boxer in recent polls; at the end of July, Jones had less than $1-million cash on hand and Boxer had more than $7 million, though both have been raising money since then.

The Boxer campaign said Schwarzenegger's decision to lend Jones some political help should come as no surprise.

"What's really significant here is that the Jones campaign is doing so badly that it considers a Republican governor fund-raising for a Republican Senate candidate to be big news," said Boxer spokesman Roy Behr. "This is not news.... The Jones campaign has so little going for it that they consider this to be a significant development."

Individual tickets for next week's event are priced from $500 for the dinner to $2,000 for a smaller, more intimate gathering preceding the main reception and dinner.

"I think it will get him some money, and that's helpful," said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. "There is some possibility that it could resonate well with some swing voters and moderate Democrats.

"Beyond that, I don't know if he will be able to close the gap between him and Barbara Boxer on that basis alone."

Jeffe said Jones has built his campaign in part around the theme that voters could "shake up Washington the way we've shaken up Sacramento" by ousting Boxer, one of the Senate's most liberal members.

More involvement by the governor, Jeffe said, could add weight to that argument for some voters.

"The question that needs to be answered is: 'How serious is he going to be?' " Jeffe said. "Is he going to lend his name? Make phone calls? How deep is this involvement?"

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