Saturday, September 17, 2005 | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used a San Diego audience for a backdrop on Friday to announce that he will run for re-election in 2006, despite waning public opinion and growing opposition by public employee unions.
Although the crowd and media gathered inside downtown’s 4th and B Theater eagerly waited for the big announcement, it didn’t come until the very end of a nearly 40-minute speech and seemingly scripted question-and-answer session regarding his proposals for state school and budget reforms.
“I’ve been asked several times this week, if I’m running again or not. Here’s the bottom line: I’ve said that I’m a follow-through guy … I’m not in there for three years. I originally got in this to finish the job. I’ll be there for seven years. Yes, I will run again.”
The bulk of Schwarzenegger’s town hall-style meeting was focused on rallying voter support for the governor’s three ballot initiatives – Propositions 74, 76 and 77 – in the Nov. 8 special election.
The tanned and toned former Hollywood star arrived at the venue 30 minutes late, taking the stage much like a talk-show host, smiling and greeting a standing, cheering audience, while an upbeat country song played in the background. The governor even opened with a line about feeling like Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, joking that maybe his next profession should be as a talk-show host.
After sharing his love for the city, acknowledging San Diego’s large voter support in the 2003 recall election and the city’s generosity of taking in Katrina evacuees, Schwarzenegger proceeded to outline each of his three initiatives.
“In order to rebuild California, we must reform,” said Schwarzenegger, standing center-stage, surrounded by a hand-picked group of about 200, the majority of whom were white, male and middle-aged or older.
Proposition 74 seeks to increase the probationary period for public school teachers from two years to five years before they are eligible for tenure. Proposition 76 would restrict spending by linking it to revenue growth and empower the governor to make budget cuts throughout the year. Proposition 77 would allow legislative districts to be redrawn by an appointed panel rather than elected officials.
“You sent me to Sacramento to fix the broken system. Let us continue to work together to fix it,” he said early in his speech, a statement that was met with enthusiastic applause from the intimate crowd of smiling supporters.
While the governor spoke of his achievements and plans for the future, about 300 protesters, many from unions representing nurses, teachers and firefighters, as well as equal rights activists, continued to march in front of the theater, carrying signs with slogans stating “You Won’t Be Back,” “Education Cuts Don’t Heal,” “Arnold Sells Out to Lobbyists” and “Got Marriage?”
A Field Poll survey from Sept. 2 showed Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings at 36 percent, a significant decrease compared to his 65 percent approval rating during the same time last year. The following week, a different Field Poll survey showed that a majority of California voters, 56 percent, would not re-elect the governor.
“He’s a bad actor and a worse governor. He lied to us. … We’re trying to get the public to see through Arnold’s smoke and mirrors,” said Leann Cortimiglia, a 47-year-old nurse from Lemon Grove, who was out protesting along with other members of the California Nurses Association.
The governor encouraged everyone to go out and vote in November’s special election, specifically to vote “yes on 74, 76, 77,” which he repeated three times in a row. “On Nov. 8, it’s all about the people speaking and the people taking back the power … The original was the recall, but this is the sequel.”
The governor also encouraged voters not to fall prey to “scare tactics” such as the rampant, critical television ads – mostly funded by public employees unions – which are currently airing throughout the state.
“The unions want to buy this election. … They want to derail our reforms,” said Schwarzenegger.
California State Treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides responded to the governor’s announcement in a prepared release, stating, “Now that Gov. Schwarzenegger has announced his intention to run for re-election , we have an obligation – all of us – to assess his progress and performance in the job he hopes to keep.”
But as Schwarzenegger’s director of finance, Tom Campbell, summed it up, “What’s not to like about a Hollywood action star?”
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