Four months out from the gubernatorial primary, California Democrats remain divided over who will be anointed to challenge Arnold Scwarzenegger's re-election. It's the State Treasurer versus the State Controller in the fight for the Democratic nomination.
The support of the party establishment has already been rounded up by Treasurer Phil Angelides, a wealthy San Francisco liberal. More than three dozen unions, 200 elected officials and a gaggle of party insiders have already endorsed Angelides. But his most prominent rival, state Controller and Silicon Valley businessman Steve Westly has vowed to spend as much as $20 million to take the nomination for himself.
While Angelides was among the most prominent Democrats to oppose and criticize Schwarzenegger from the outset, Westly was –until recently--more reserved in his opposition. Westly has been trying to fashion an appeal to the center. Angelides has been trying to capitalize on his more liberal Bay Area base. But as The Los Angeles Times has reported, the real political differences between the two are not substantial:
Though siding with liberals, Angelides in other ways has stuck to the political center. A death penalty supporter, he opposes a moratorium on capital punishment. He also has declined to criticize Schwarzenegger for denying clemency to death row inmates. And despite his call for massive new infrastructure spending, he advocates fiscal restraint.
Westly and Angelides also have another point in common: low name recognition. Especially in vote-rich Southern California. Early polls, nevertheless, show both Democrats to be highly competitive in a match-up with the Governator. But a knock-down drag-out spend-fest during the primary could bloody and weaken the eventual nominee. The fight is just beginning.