Anaheim, California — The Republican State Convention in California last week came at an uncomfortable for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last month, after weeks of disagreement with the governor, the Correctional Peace Officers Association launched a petition drive to recall Schwarzenegger (who came to office in ’03 following a successful recall movement against then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis). Remembering the “snap” vote that replaced Davis with Schwarzenegger, former Republican Gov. (1990-98) Pete Wilson warned the convention in his luncheon address not to take lightly the latest recall drive.
But many of those I talked to at the Anaheim Marriott could care less what happens to Schwarzenegger. Whether the issue is abortion or gay rights or global warming, there is usually a wide chasm between “the Governator” and most of the largely conservative group at the party conclave. As one of the conventioneers who attended Schwarzenegger’s dinner address Friday evening put it, “I was starting to warm up to John McCain, but now I’m suspicious after I heard Arnold start to sing his praises.”
But GOP leaders also went on record at the convention to demonstrate that they are coming from a different direction than their governor. At a meeting of the party’s Board of Directors, a resolution was introduced praising Republican state legislators for opposing tax increases — an unmistakeable reference to the recent efforts of Schwarzenegger to secure a 14% sales tax increases and the successful thwarting of this by lawmakers of his own party.
Schwarzenegger’s allies on the committee — notably former State Party Chairman Duf Sundheim and Luis Buehler of Northern California — spoke out against the measure. They went as far as to remove the language referencing the governor, suggesting that it was a slight to him. This, of course, is potentially explosive considering the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s recall campaign.
Although considered far closer to conservatives in the party than to Schwarzenegger and his team, State Party Chairman Ron Nehring was clearly uncomfortable with the resolution. As one who was present at the committee meeting told me later, “Ron did not want this to happen. During the debate, he clearly wished he could be somewhere else.”
But the conservative-run Executive Board of Directors wasn’t buying this and, by a vote of 12-to-4, endorsed the resolution hailing the anti-tax lawmakers. As to whether it was an insult to Schwarzenegger, Jon Fleischman, editor of the influential “Flash Report” on-line newsletter and vice chairman of the state GOP for the South, told me, “It was about our conservative legislators and not about the governor at all. If we really wanted to criticize the governor, he’s given conservatives plenty of ammunition. A Board colleague wrote this resolution — my version would have been less kind to Arnold.”
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