SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Stopping just short of announcing that he’ll seek re-election next year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said that he’s someone who likes to finish what he starts and added that his plans will be clear within weeks.
“I will be talking about that this month,” Schwarzenegger told newspaper columnist Daniel Weintraub, who was guest-hosting on Sacramento radio station KTKZ. “But as you know, I’m a man that always goes and stays all the way through until we get done, so I’m looking forward to working for the people.”
On a day when he hit the airwaves and held an event in Los Angeles to urge Californians to donate to, and take part in, Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Schwarzenegger also said being governor is “the greatest job I’ve ever had.”
In a recent interview with KCRA television in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger also dropped re-election hints: “I’m a follow-through guy,” he said. “I don’t walk away from things that I think are unfinished.”
Several Republican strategists have urged Schwarzenegger to announce his intentions sooner rather than later. That would reassure donors concerned about backlash from the Democrat-controlled Legislature if they contributed to Schwarzenegger and his initiative campaign.
Recent speculation has been that the governor might make his announcement around the time of the California Republican Party’s convention in mid-September. Before then, he is expected to hit the campaign trail in support of his initiatives for the Nov. 8 special election – an election that many Democrats and unions consider a Schwarzenegger power grab.
“What’s the drama? Either he’s going to run or he’s not,” said Gale Kaufman, campaign consultant for the union-backed Alliance for a Better California, which opposes Schwarzenegger’s initiatives. “Right now, I’d rather he act like a governor for awhile, doing important things.”
She added, “We like running against people with a popularity of 34 percent.”
Nonsense, said GOP strategist Kevin Spillane. If Schwarzenegger runs in 2006, “he wins.”
And donors to the governor’s reform initiatives “will have confidence that they will not be the victims of retaliation from Democrats in the Legislature. There will be a governor there to veto legislation that would target them in retaliation.”
Schwarzenegger is pushing special election initiatives to control spending and grant him new budget powers; empower retired judges, rather than legislators, to redraw the state’s political districts; and require public school teachers to wait five years, instead of two, to become permanent employees.
So far he is neutral about what may be the election’s most significant issue – a ballot measure that would curb the ability of public employee unions (among Democrats’ biggest donors) to raise money from members for political purposes. But Schwarzenegger is widely expected to endorse it soon.
On Thursday, the California Teachers Union contributed $21 million to defeat the union dues measure and the governor’s spending limit and tenure measure.
Certainly, the governor has been talking long-term. He has said that his three-step plan for California involves recovery, reform and rebuilding. With 2005 being his “year for reform,” aides say Schwarzenegger next year will focus on rebuilding some of the state’s crumbling infrastructure. The governor himself cited highways and ports as priorities.
Also Friday, the governor warned that he would have little choice but to consider raising taxes to help balance the state’s books if his so-far unpopular spending control fails.