The latest polls on the gubernatorial election released this week are pretty much all over the place. The most credible, according to experts in the area, show Schwarzenegger with anywhere from an 8 to13 point lead over Democratic rival, Phil Angelides. While these kinds of polls aren’t worthy of a betting person at this stage of the game, some of the findings reflect the current turbulence within the Democratic Party leadership over this election.
While many of us in the Progressive movement are excited about Andelides candidacy in which he publicly and proudly espouses the values that we believe are vital to the future of our state– from education to energy independence, to healthcare for our health, not the insurance industry, etc, there are many levels in play that are effecting his current deficit.
A key polling number that reflects this uncertainty shows that Angelides currently has the support of only 63% of Democratic voters, while Schwarzenegger has the support of 85% of Republican voters. This could be attributed to a number of things, not the least of which is the bruising Democratic primary where the candidates beat and bloodied each other, while Arnold got a free pass and was virtually untouched in his own race. But the primary is over and Angelides is going to need to bring the Dems back into the fold in order to win this election from the Right-wing running Arnold’s re-election campaign. But how to do that with a number of key Dems on the fence or just playing hard-to-get at the moment?
There is certainly speculation about the fact that Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has not yet endorsed his party’s nominee. In fact, we have seen in the LA Times several instances where the Mayor and Republican Governor Schwarzenegger have been photographed together and promising to campaign together on the Infrastructure Bonds that failed legislative passage to be on the more innocuous June ballot but will be on the November ballot-when the Governor goes head to head with his challenger. Raising eyebrows further are the public statements by the legislative leaders of both houses, Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, that they too will campaign with the Governor to get the necessary support for passage of the bonds. Mixed messages to Democrats? Many think so.
Like most of what happens in the political world, there is alot at play here—both above the surface and below. Mayor Villaraigosa wants greater control of the Los Angelese Unified School District which Angelides hasn’t supported-at least yet. This past week the Governor weighed in, however, with some level of support conceptually if not specifically for the Mayor’s plan. However you read it, though, the Gov is certainly beginning to tap his feet, if not start dancing to the music of this effort while Angelides and Villaraigosa are dancing in different rooms at the moment.
A more cynical explanation of the reluctance of the Mayor and Angelides to hug and mug for the camera is the poorly kept secret that the Mayor wants to run for Governor in 2010. With Schwarzenegger termed-out that year, it would be a natural for the Mayor to step into the Governor’s role then-and-there. But if Angelides wins, he’ll be running for his second term in ’10 thus depriving Villaraigosa an opportunity to head the state until 2014……an extraordinarily long delay for any politician, even one as skilled and interesting as Villaraigosa. The rest of this story goes that if Villaraigosa wins in 2010, Speaker Nunez, an Angelino, runs to fill the vacant Mayoral post and boom, the game of musical chairs is complete. Of course, Nunez is one of the titular co-chairs of Angelides campaign, but photo ops with both candidates in an election send very mixed signals to voters and as the polling shows, Democrats need to be clear that their leaders support the Democratic candidate.
Another layer if intrigue is the game being played with the Governor on modifying the disasterous term-limits law—Sitting legislators all want changes to the current set-up and the Governor is starting to play along—but only if the issue is connected to Redistricting Reform. After so many failed attempts to revise the ill-conceived term-limits rule, it is particularly important to those legislators termed out in 2008 ( those termed out this year are out-of-luck). It is hardly co- incidental that among those in the class of 2008 are the current leaders of both houses, Don Perata and Fabian Nunez. Working with the Governor on this issue and getting his support for this initiative (still timely for the November ballot) will give them the opportunity to hold onto their positions and their power for at least another term (for Nunez, it could be as much as 6 more years, for Perata 4 more years)
In spite of the tens of millions already being spent by Big Business to slam Angelides and boost up Schwarzenegger’s image for the upcoming November election , this race is still very much up-in-the-air. As the summer heat subsides, and the election season begins, let’s hope that calmer heads prevail and that all will come on board to support the true progressive candidate running for Governor. In spite of all the usual intrigue and positioning, we cannot afford four more years of the Bush/Schwarzenegger people running our state. If you don’t like what you see coming out of Washington, D.C., remember THEY”RE HERE, trying to buy and bully their way into four more years of policies that pander to greed and corporate control and that have failed us as a nation. Fortunately, we’re in a position to stop them in California. It’s time for our leaders to step up to the plate in California. I’m betting that after all is said and done, they will. The sooner the better.