Voters Grapple With Democratic Primary Race for Governor

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, June 5, 2006

It’s likely that some of what you know about each candidate is courtesy of his opponent.  The bruising TV ads have been tough to miss: Controller Steve Westly’s campaign highlighting Treasurer Angelides’ history as a developer:

Nats of ad westly develop ad :“Have you seen these ads depicting firefighters, police officers and teachers supporting Phil Angelides?  Well, read the fine print.   They’re really paid fro by one of the state’s largest real estate developers.  Why would one developer spend 6 million dollars to get Angelides elected?”

And the Angelides campaign dubbing Westly “Arnold-lite:”
Nats of ad “Even today, Westly and Schwarzenegger are the same on funding our schools.  Both oppose closing corporate tax loopholes and asking multi-millionaires to pay their fair share again. California doesn’t need a Schwarzenegger twin.”

Despite the millions each have spent on such ads, Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo says a record number – 26% - of likely voters are still undecided.  He says negative campaigns may have contributed to that:
Cut decamillo1 

“That probably lengthens the amount of time it takes for voters to come to terms with the two candidates.  It’s just an unusual race because neither candidate seems to have struck a chord with voters in this election.” 

Knowing that so many votes are still up for grabs, Westly - who got rich as an e-bay executive - and Angelides - who got rich as a developer - have been canvassing the state. 
(nats Hi, I’m Phil Angelides, I’m running for Governor….)
It was handshakes and hotcakes at the packed Pancake Circus in Angelides’ hometown of Sacramento.  The Treasurer talked taxes with a diner named Terry who didn’t want to give his last name. He said he’d already voted absentee for Westly:

“You lost my vote – you’re a day too late – why?  Cause you wanna tax.  Are you gonna raise the car tax?  Are you gonna tax me because I’m rich?  I make $20,000 a year.  No.  Oh, ok. 

In fact, fiscal policy is the key area where the gubernatorial hopefuls differ. Angelides outlined his vision for the Sacramento Press club in May: 

 “Imagine if we rollback just a portion of the 17 billion dollars a year in tax breaks for the multi-milionaires and big corporations in California and used it to improve our schools to give our people the knowledge and the skills to power the idea economy of the 21st century.

Westly told the press club a month earlier that he wants to clamp down on tax cheats, hire more auditors, and reform the lottery so more money goes to schools : 
“I am merely suggesting to you that taxes should be the last resort – not the first resort – we have a duty to try everything else first.  So far, no one has.  I will.”

On social issues similarities abound:  Both favor abortion rights, gay marriage, and environmental protections.  Westly wants to offer free community college.  Angelides wants to roll back university tuition increases.  Westly is a former Stanford faculty member who’s pumped more than 30 million of his e-bay fortune into campaigning.  Angelides comes from a Greek immigrant family and is a former Democratic Party chair. 

The latest field poll shows the two in a virtual dead heat – but Westly has consistently done better in hypothetical match-ups with Schwarzenegger.  And that’s what the race comes down to, says Jack Pitney, a government professor at Clermont-McKenna college: 

“It’s really a question of pragmatism versus idealism – the democrats who are very strongly in favor of a liberal philosophy are really in favor of Angelides – the democrats who favor a pragmatic approach – those who want to win the election - tend to favor Westly.”

Pitney says when Democrats finally do make up their minds, they’ll send the winner to face what will likely be an even tougher campaign against a Governor who’s had a very warm spring.  SOC