Andrew Maykuth Online
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 16, 2003

Heavy political lifting for Schwarzenegger
Being able to win over a crowd may not sustain California's next governor.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's capital is bracing for Arnold Mania.

In what his staff promises will be a "low-key" event - carried live on television and witnessed by a mere 8,000 invited guests and 500 journalists - actor Arnold Schwarzenegger will take the oath of office tomorrow as California's governor.

Sacramento has not seen anything like this since the Gold Rush. Paparazzi are on the prowl. Restaurant owners are salivating for signed photos. Democrats are scratching their scalps, groping for a strategy to counter the hugely popular Republican who ran away with the governor's job after last month's recall of Democrat Gray Davis.

This subdued city of 400,000 people in the heart of California's most productive agricultural region is suddenly on the Hollywood Star Map. Television stations that abandoned statehouse coverage have reopened their capital bureaus. Tour operators specializing in foreign visitors are scheduling visits to Sacramento, and they're not coming to see the California State Railroad Museum.

Schwarzenegger will maintain his principal residence in Los Angeles and is likely to spend only three days a week at rented digs in Sacramento. (The former governor's mansion was turned into a museum during Ronald Reagan's time in the governor's office.) Nevertheless, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau is hoping to capitalize on its newest resident.

"Not many people came to Sacramento hoping to get a sighting of Gray Davis," said Mike Testa, the visitors' bureau spokesman. The bureau wants to hire a Schwarzenegger impersonator to help deliver Sacramento's message, he said, but comedian Dana Carvey is unavailable and no one else has measured up.

"We met with one guy who did not look like Schwarzenegger but seemed to think he did," said Testa, who has heard way too many jokes lately about Sacramento being a "pit stop on the way to Tahoe."

Bad puns and one-liners aside, the former bodybuilder's new career will be no easy lift.

Though he is skilled at winning over crowds and has a force of personality measured on the Richter scale, it is unclear how Schwarzenegger will adapt to Sacramento politics, where deals are cut privately with a few key legislators during the city's protracted summers.

"I don't have any read on the man," said Walt Stone, chairman of the political science department at the University of California, Davis. "I don't know how good of a politician he'll be."

Schwarzenegger faces a budget deficit that will be worsened by his promise to repeal an unpopular vehicle-license-fee increase. Car sales have slipped in California as buyers wait to see whether the new governor will follow through on his pledge.

"He put himself into a bind" with that promise, Stone said. The fee increase would bring in $4.2 billion in revenue - serious money in a $101 billion budget already $10 billion short on revenue. Schwarzenegger's team has been talking of closing the gap with a bond issue.

Schwarzenegger's eclectic cabinet appointments have reflected his campaign claim that he would be a governor for all Californians. The staff he inherited from conservative former Gov. Pete Wilson apparently influenced many of his choices, but other appointments hint at his support for more liberal social causes.

"The governor's primary responsibility is the budget, and there his appointments are fairly fiscally conservative Republicans," said Bruce E. Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Schwarzenegger's finance secretary will be Donna Arduin, who gained a national reputation as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's budget director.

In his other appointments, he appears to be splitting the difference. He named former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as education secretary, which pleased neither bedrock conservatives nor the teachers' union. He also has named some Democrats.

His appointments last week to the state Environmental Protection Agency raised some eyebrows. He named conservationist Terry Tamminen, founder of several environmental advocacy organizations, as secretary of the department. But the undersecretary is a former logging company executive, and another deputy worked in Wilson's Republican administration.

"All I can say is that he seems politically savvy; it keeps people guessing," Cain said. "But it means there's going to be friction in the governor's office, and somebody has to be strong enough to preside over it. He hasn't made life easy for himself."

"The EPA appointments are indicative of the things that people are worried about," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento. "He has a bipolar collection of appointments. We'll put the government on lithium."

Then there are the lingering allegations, published by the Los Angeles Times during the last week of the campaign, that Schwarzenegger fondled women during his years in Hollywood. Schwarzenegger acknowledged he had "behaved badly" and asked for forgiveness, which voters apparently gave.

The allegations resurfaced last week after Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who recently had private conversations with Schwarzenegger after making friendly overtures to the governor-elect, insisted he submit to an independent review.

Lockyer's announcement was curious enough. The Democratic attorney general, who has gubernatorial ambitions himself, had previously revealed that he had voted for Schwarzenegger and played down the groping allegations as "frat-boy behavior." Now he appeared to reverse himself, saying he had been aware all along of an unreported groping allegation, one he implied might have been recent enough to interest prosecutors.

Lockyer's call prompted a flurry of indignant exchanges with Schwarzenegger's office, which announced that the governor-elect was hiring an investigator to look into the allegations. Pundits shook their heads, saying the episode illustrated Schwarzenegger's political naivete.

"One of the first lessons of Politics 101 is that you never take advice from a political opponent seriously," Cain said.

Lockyer's remarks prompted the California National Organization for Women to renew its calls for an independent inquiry. "This is a man with a 30-year track record of the same allegations," said Helen Grieco, executive director of the organization. "We're not debating whether it's true or not. We're debating how this is handled."

But Lockyer's comments seemed to have the opposite effect. "It really pushed the debate underground," said O'Connor, of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media.

Partly because of the size of Schwarzenegger's mandate and the urgency of dealing with the state's fiscal problems, most rivals appear content to let the matter go dormant as long as the prosecutor does not file charges. Charges are unlikely because all the known incidents occurred too far in the past.

"A lot depends upon if there is a serious lawsuit in the making," said Berkeley's Cain. "If not, the political damage is put off - until the next election." home page   
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