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Angelides Steps Up Attacks on Gov.

In change of tactics, the challenger targets the incumbent's character. Schwarzenegger forges plans for a second term.

October 19, 2006|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — As the governor's race hurtles toward the endgame, challenger Phil Angelides is trying to close a large gap in the polls by attacking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, while the governor is hiring new staff and announcing an official overseas trip in anticipation of a second term.

Angelides, the Democratic state treasurer, has in recent days moved off his core message that the governor's budget priorities and overall stewardship are lacking, and tried to make Schwarzenegger's past behavior an issue.

In interviews and public appearances, Angelides has drawn attention to statements the Republican governor is alleged to have made decades ago about apartheid in South Africa, comments Schwarzenegger made this year about the temperament of a Latina lawmaker and accusations that he fondled a British television talk show host in 2000.

"I'm running for governor on where I want to take this state, but issues of character are relevant," Angelides said in a recent interview.

Schwarzenegger's campaign team said the treasurer's tactics smack of "desperation."

As Angelides looks for an edge, the governor, enjoying a double-digit lead in most polls, is looking past the election.

He has hired four staff members to help him forge a plan for expanding healthcare access -- expected to be the centerpiece of his 2007 agenda if he wins Nov. 7.

And Schwarzenegger, assuming victory, said during a visit to New York this week that he would lead a trade mission to India next year.

"This coming spring we're going to go to India," the governor told a TV reporter.

"We are going to create kind of a whole team of 100 business leaders," the governor said, "and we're going to come to India and see in which areas we can explore expansion and better working relationships and so on because we love the people in India."

Angelides, in retooling his message, is reflecting the frustrations of an underdog who can't gain political traction, analysts said. Angelides' argument that his policies would be superior to Schwarzenegger's hasn't made inroads with voters. Nor has his attempt to link Schwarzenegger to the unpopular President Bush.

Looking for another way to distinguish himself from the governor, Angelides spent the last month talking about his opposition to the war in Iraq.

That didn't shake up the race either.

"You don't like to see a campaign change course with less than three weeks in the election," said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University. "And when that does happen, it means they're changing course because what they've done to date isn't working."

Daniel Mitchell, a professor of management and public policy at UCLA, said: "He is attempting to get whatever media attention he can.... He doesn't get on the Jay Leno show and Schwarzenegger does. It's hard to compete."

In a visit to a mostly black church in Sacramento on Tuesday, Angelides told civil rights leaders and pastors in the audience that, "according to news reports, my opponent in this race was apparently, or allegedly, defending apartheid in South Africa."

He was referring to an article in the Los Angeles Times magazine 15 years ago that quoted a friend of Schwarzenegger. The friend, Rick Wayne, said Schwarzenegger once claimed that blacks would ruin South Africa if put in charge.

Also in his address to the church, Angelides invoked the governor's comment that Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City) had a "hot" personality. The comment was recorded by his staff and plucked from the governor's computer system by the Angelides campaign.

Talking casually with aides, Schwarzenegger said in the recording that such temperament results when "black blood" mixes with "Latino blood."

Angelides told the church audience: "I want to let you know as governor, I'll never refer to Latinas and African American women in terms about 'hot blood,' or talking about your ethnicity. It's not right and it's not proper in a state of this kind of prominence."

Pressing his attack, Angelides also is citing a libel suit that Schwarzenegger settled overseas.

In August, attorneys for both sides in the case announced that Schwarzenegger had reached a settlement with a former British TV talk show host who had accused him of damaging her reputation.

Anna Richardson had sued Schwarzenegger and two of his top aides in a London court in 2004. She alleged that Schwarzenegger groped her after appearing on her show in 2000 to promote a movie -- three years before he became governor.

"If this were a CEO of a corporation, the board would be meeting to say, 'What do we do about this problem, about this guy?' " Angelides said in the interview.

Schwarzenegger's campaign team lashed out at the state treasurer over his new direction.

"Phil Angelides is displaying his true character to every voter in the state of California with these slurs and smears," said Steve Schmidt, the governor's campaign manager.

"Phil Angelides has a well-deserved reputation as a world-class political smear artist," Schmidt said.

"He promised that this race would be different, that he would stick to issues. He has broken that promise."

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

For exclusive Web features, including the new Political Muscle blog, go to latimes.com/calpolitics.

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