SACRAMENTO — Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides is poised to announce that he will run for California governor in 2006, launching an early assault against Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger more than a year before the primary election.
Angelides plans to make the announcement next week, his campaign staff said Tuesday, declining to comment further. He would be the first major politician to announce his candidacy; even Schwarzenegger remains officially undecided about whether he will seek reelection.
Angelides has collected $12.5 million in campaign contributions and has been one of the most vocal statewide officials to challenge the governor's policies.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger is making California a national battlefield with the Bush right-wing agenda," Angelides told reporters last week.
His campaign would present Schwarzenegger with a traditional Democratic opponent with close ties to labor unions, teachers and many of the groups that have challenged the Republican governor this year. Angelides is a former head of the California Democratic Party and was elected state treasurer in 1998.
A Field Poll released last week showed Schwarzenegger holding a 15-point lead over any potential 2006 challenger. In a hypothetical match-up, the poll found Angelides would place third in a Democratic primary -- behind Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and Rob Reiner, the actor and director known for promoting early childhood education. Reiner has said he was not likely to run.
Roy Behr, a Democratic consultant based in Los Angeles who has managed media campaigns for Reiner's early childhood education commission, said Angelides and Lockyer carry liabilities if they want to challenge Schwarzenegger. Although the governor has shown himself to be more partisan lately, he remains in many voters' minds an independent, he said.
"The odds are that by the time election day rolls around, Schwarzenegger will look a lot more vulnerable than he does today," Behr said. "But I don't think he is more vulnerable to a career politician."
Behr said Angelides is "clearly the master of Democratic red meat rhetoric and will play very well at the [Democratic] convention, but he's probably not what voters are looking for."
Democrats already are campaigning against Schwarzenegger on multiple levels. A coalition of labor groups, police, firefighters and teachers announced Tuesday they were forming a group called "Seriously, Saving California" to fight Schwarzenegger's multipronged ballot agenda this year.
And California for Democracy, a group that helped Howard Dean raise large amounts of money for his 2004 presidential campaign over the Internet, said it would begin raising money to challenge Schwarzenegger.
"He may be seen as a moderate Republican, but that doesn't entitle anybody to a free ride," said Jim Dean, the brother of Howard Dean and chairman of Democracy for America, parent of the California group.
Lockyer has $10.9 million in his 2006 gubernatorial account, though he has not formally announced he is running. He recently told Democratic lawmakers in a letter that his ambition always has been to be California governor. But "he is focused on doing his job right now," said Nathan Barankin, his spokesman.
Schwarzenegger has begun raising money for a possible reelection campaign. The California Republican Party has endorsed him for reelection, allowing the party to begin raising money for him as well.
Rob Stutzman, the governor's communications director, said "reelection is not what's on his mind right now."
Stutzman described Angelides as "a veteran pol."