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THE SPECIAL ELECTION | THE SPECIAL ELECTION

Unions' War of Words Now in Spanish

October 27, 2005|Jordan Rau | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The quest for Latino voters intensified Wednesday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's union opponents began airing ads on Spanish-language television in which Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa assails the governor's entire special election agenda.

Another ad compares Schwarzenegger to former Gov. Pete Wilson, dredging up memories of the fights over illegal immigration that made many Latinos sour on the former Republican governor. The ad shows a photo of Wilson transforming into Schwarzenegger.

The unions this week also started running advertisements in Spanish-language newspapers charging that Wilson supports Proposition 75 -- which would restrict the use of union dues for politics -- "because he wants funding for schools cut and teachers silenced." All the ads are in Spanish.

The attacks come as Schwarzenegger steps up his courting of Latino voters. He has run his own ads, and an hour-long special with the governor answering voters' questions will appear Saturday on Univision stations.

Roger Salazar, a consultant for the unions, said the campaign bought more than $1 million worth of television time.

"We have a community that is angry with this governor, that feels betrayed by the governor, and the polls and the surveys show it," Salazar said. "What we're doing with these spots is reminding them that there's an election coming up that focuses on the governor's agenda and asks them to go out and reject it."

Along with the union dues measure, Schwarzenegger has endorsed changes to the way legislative districts are determined, how long new teachers must stay on probation, and how much state government can spend.

The Villaraigosa ad features a teacher attacking that agenda before the mayor says, "Don't let anyone betray our children's future" and urges a no vote.

The other ad says: "Remember when Pete Wilson said we were to blame for California's problems, how he attacked immigrants and hurt our schools? Now Schwarzenegger is doing the same. He praises vigilantes patrolling the Mexican border and he wants to take more money from our schools."

Wilson could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Jesus Arredondo, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's ballot campaign, said that while the governor's ballot measures were "about change," the unions choose "to distort the facts rather than being constructive and offering solutions."

"They have stooped to a new low," he said.

An August poll by the Public Policy Institute of California said only 15% of Latinos supported the governor.

But Kevin Spillane, a GOP consultant not affiliated with any of the campaigns, said private polling shows recent gains by Schwarzenegger. Spillane said the ads revealed the union's fears about that.

"Why would they do this if they weren't worried?" he said. "The Democrats have been trotting out Pete Wilson for the last dozen years. It's been a tried and true tactic, but it's a tired one."

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