The biggest speech of the year for any governor is usually the State of the State address in early January. That’s when he lays out his agenda for the coming year. Schwarzenegger certainly doesn’t want to be dogged by leftover troubles from 2005, so for him, the phrase ‘out with the old and in with the new’ takes on special meaning. Sacramento State Communications Professor Barbara O’Connor says the governor is doing just that with key staff changes.
“Because the people he’s appointed are good managers, they’re not radical Republicans, I think he’s getting people who can do the business of government and know the ropes and that certainly is Susan Kennedy’s strength, which is why he appointed her.”
Easier said than done. Schwarzenegger gave Kennedy the top job in his cabinet – Chief of Staff. Kennedy is a Democrat who once worked for ousted Governor Gray Davis. The appointment set off a firestorm of criticism among state Republicans. His later appointments of Republicans to other key positions like cabinet secretary and deputy Chief of Staff didn’t do much to calm things down. For his part, the governor tried to stay above the fray.
“All of this is healthy and it’s good and I think everyone should express themselves and let out their disappointments or whatever. My message is clear, don’t judge me by who I hire, judge me by my action.”
One action was to have a sit-down with state GOP leaders. Afterwards, Chairman Duf Sundheim said he felt the rancor over Susan Kennedy’s hiring was at an end. But the governor has more fence mending to do with Republicans. Political analyst Tony Quinn says the GOP is still wounded by the governor’s failed November Special Election.
“It cost them about forty-million dollars that could have gone into Republican campaigns in 2006 and as a result of what he did politically over the past year, he is greatly weakened as a candidate and that hurts all Republicans seeking office.”
After the special election, the Governor said he wanted to work toward bi-partisanship with Democratic legislative leaders—a tall order in an election year. Professor Barbara O’Connor says to accomplish any new agenda, Schwarzenegger must act quickly.
“He really needs some deliverables and he needs them before it gets heavily partisan after the primary. And so I think in the next three months you’ll see a lot of activity to try and build a real reform agenda through the legislature and that’s what these appointments will enable him to do I think.”
Some of those “deliverables” could include an infrastructure bond – but how much and how to fund it have yet to be worked out. Not to mention whether he really can achieve bi-partisan cooperation and avoid election bitterness that clouded his path to success in 2005.