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Gov.'s Allies Block Broad Rebuke

The state GOP declines to fully embrace his fiscal policy and calls on him to put more Republican judges on the bench.

February 27, 2006|Michael Finnegan and Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writers

SAN JOSE — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's allies blocked conservatives in the state GOP on Sunday from passing a broad condemnation of his 2006 agenda, but the party declined to fully embrace his fiscal policy and called on him to put more Republican judges on the bench.

Those moves by roughly 600 delegates voting at the state GOP convention capped a weekend of intraparty strife as conservatives spoke out against Schwarzenegger's calls for a higher minimum wage and $68 billion in new debt for public works projects. They also denounced his appointment of Democrats to judgeships and other state jobs.

A day after killing a move to yank the party's endorsement of Schwarzenegger, the governor's political team succeeded in quashing a resolution against the debt and minimum-wage proposals.

But in a mild slap at the governor's fiscal leadership, party delegates voted to drop language from another resolution that would have lauded him for "signing balanced budgets."

Schwarzenegger has proposed "spending more money than we're taking in," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), who sponsored the wording change. "That's not a balanced budget."

Despite misgivings about Schwarzenegger's direction, many of the GOP rank and file said they still viewed him as the party's best hope for exerting influence in Sacramento, where Democrats hold unassailable margins in the Legislature.

In a floor speech, Michael McSweeney of San Diego told delegates that "winning is more fun than losing" and described the attempts to distance the party from Schwarzenegger as misguided.

"It's about how can we spank the governor and form the circular firing squad," he said.

Schwarzenegger's allies were pleased that the gathering ended without a wider rupture between the governor and the GOP conservative base. His political aides have worked for weeks to keep a convention uprising from embarrassing the governor, whose reelection prospects depend partly on a strong turnout of conservative supporters.

"This is the best I could have expected," state party Chairman Duf Sundheim said. "We leave here united."

Schwarzenegger, who is on a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., said Sunday that he had not -- and would not -- change his political philosophy and would govern for Democrats and Republicans alike.

"There are some on the right wing who are not happy about that, who think I should only govern for Republicans, but that's not what I promised the people of California," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

When asked about infighting in the GOP, he paraphrased a saying of former President Reagan.

"If 80% of people are your friends, then you don't have 20% enemies, you have 80% friends," he said. "So I mean, that's really the bottom line."

Schwarzenegger acknowledged that he could get caught up in a national anti-Republican tide in November.

Some analysts suggest that voter concern about the war in Iraq, lobbying scandals and administration stumbles over its Medicare drug program and hurricane response could snowball against Republican candidates this fall.

"Yes, you know, that's always a concern," Schwarzenegger responded when asked by host Tim Russert about the possibility of a GOP backlash.

In an appearance at the National Governors Assn.'s winter conference, Schwarzenegger urged fellow governors to join him in fighting an epidemic of child obesity. He said the average body weight of a 12-year-old in California had increased by 10 pounds since the 1970s.

"We in California in the last 10 years gained 360 million pounds of body weight," he added. "Think about it: 360 million pounds of body weight."

Times staff writer Richard Simon in Washington contributed to this report.

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