Steve Westly gives Angelides a chase in hopes to unseat Schwarzenegger.
Thursday, March 2, 2006
The first thing Steve Westly says—and he says it often—is that he’s not like the other guys who want to be elected in November as California’s governor.
“An awful lot of candidates spend all of their time in Sacramento, or maybe Sacramento and LA,” he says, in an obvious dig at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I didn’t just blow in and out for a 10-minute press conference.” That reference is to his Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who kicked off his candidacy for governor with a very brief stop at CSU-Monterey Bay last March before jetting off to the next city.
Unlike the others, Westly says, he’s a “grass-roots” guy. His Monterey County visit is his latest stop in what might be dubbed a grass-roots tour of rural towns and cities. Since January, the former eBay executive has dropped by a brewery in Chico, a county health clinic in Oroville and a school in Eureka. His trip to the Central Coast has a similar low-key feel. He’s talking with high-ranking local officials (he’s been endorsed by Supervisor Dave Potter and former Assemblyman Fred Keeley) as well as community college students and local business owners.
On Feb. 21, Westly, the state controller who also chairs the State Lands Commission, spent the day on the Peninsula, meeting with Aquarium officials at the Center for the Future of the Oceans in Monterey, eating lunch with residents at the Blue Moon Cafe on Cannery Row and holding a public hearing on offshore drilling in Pacific Grove.
“It’s a huge issue,” he says of offshore oil, “and I think people are very complacent about it because we’ve had a 24-year, bipartisan moratorium. The Bush Administration is working overtime to lift that ban.”
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Early this morning, Westly breakfasted at Great Awakenings in Oldtown Salinas. He also visited the Steinbeck Center and met with law enforcement officials and city leaders.
In about 30 minutes, he’ll host a town hall meeting at Hartnell Community College. For lunch, he’ll head over to Chapala—a must for Democratic leaders from Bill Clinton to Mayor Anna Caballero.
Westly speaks in a calm, quiet voice, and smiles with his eyes. He’s polite and approachable, and one gets the sense that he can be fiery when needed to be. It’s likely he will need to be as the campaign heats up.
Like Phil Angelides, Westly is a state elected official who has been active in Democratic politics since his early 20s. Both are business-friendly Democrats. Westly worked in the private sector—famously making millions at eBay—and taught at Stanford Business School.
Polls show Westly running slightly behind Angelides, who has won key endorsements from influential Democrats—Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—as well as powerful labor groups, including the California Teacher’s Association and the Service Employees International Union.
According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Feb. 23, Schwarzenegger’s ratings among state voters continue to drop—down to 35 percent. If the Republican governor’s ratings keep falling, it appears likely that whomever wins the June Democratic primary will likely defeat Schwarzenegger in November. Which is why Westly is working hard to take votes away from Angelides.
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“Do people want someone who has been a career political insider—someone who wants to raise taxes—or someone who knows how to manage the state?” Westly asks rhetorically.
“Do people want someone who wants to raise taxes—or someone who knows how to manage the state?”
He says there’s an alternative to simply raising taxes or cutting services: retooling the way the state collects money, which, Westly says, is exactly what he has done as state controller.
He describes himself as a “tough fiscal watchdog.” “I led the clampdown on tax cheats that has brought in $3.5 billion over the last 24 months, and I’m very proud of that,” he says.
He estimates that the programs will bring in an additional $500 million this year—money that Westly says could be used to fund his free community college plan two times over.
“Schwarzenegger has doubled the cost of tuition at community colleges, causing 280,000 students to drop out,” he says.
Under his plan, the state would pay tuition for any student completing a two-year degree, vocational certificate, or transfer program at a community college. “It would cost $100 million to $200 million,” he says, “out of a $125 billion budget—that’s a fraction of 1 percent.”
The former deputy director of San Jose’s Office of Economic Development, Westly says the state should never balance its budget by taking money from cities and counties. Three years ago, in fact, he supported Schwarzenneger’s plan to return vehicle license fee money to local governments.
“We had about $2 billion in the bank,” Westly recalls. “Lots of people said ‘let’s keep it.’ I crossed party lines. I did the right thing—even though I still have the arrows in my back from some of the Democratic lawmakers.”
Gross ticket sales worldwide for Brokeback Mountain, which had a $13 million production budget and 8 Oscar nominations.—Source: The-Numbers.com