Angelides says he will defeat Arnold

TO THE TOP State treasurer Phil Angelides addresses fellow Democrats at Sierra Nevada’s Big Room March 1.

TO THE TOP State treasurer Phil Angelides addresses fellow Democrats at Sierra Nevada’s Big Room March 1.

Photo By Tom Angel

State Treasurer Phil Angelides told a large gathering of Chico Democrats this week that he has the political wherewithal to unseat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Speaking at a Butte County Democratic Central Committee fund-raiser in the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Big Room, Angelides said he can win the election, which is 20 months away, because the governor has abandoned the state’s working class in favor of special-interest groups.

Angelides was introduced to the mostly gray-haired local Democrats by Butte County Supervisor Jane Dolan, who said that 14 years ago Angelides became the chairman of the state Democratic Party when it was a damaged and defeated entity.

Angelides, she said, brought energy to a party without much hope.

“In 1992 the party and the state of California elected Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein and Sen. [Barbara] Boxer, and President-elect [Bill] Clinton carried the state of California,” Dolan said to a cheering reception. “Phil was there and we were back.”

She said as treasurer Angelides is fighting budget cuts to education and social services Schwarzenegger has proposed “and is trying to make worse this year.”

Dolan said there is a great difference between the treasurer and the governor in that Angelides “has muscles where it really counts—in his brain and in his work.”

Early in his speech Angelides thanked Dolan and her husband Bob Mulholland, longtime state party adviser, with whom he has worked for the past two decades.

“Fourteen years ago we started our march from political oblivion to make California the bluest of blue states in this country,” he said. “We proudly put two women in the United States Senate and told every young girl in America they could be anything they wanted in their lives.”

A smooth, confident and, at times, emphatic speaker, Angelides talked of the great challenges to keep California at the front of the world economy.

“Everything we care about is at stake,” he said. “With George Bush in Washington and Arnold Schwarzenegger now in Sacramento, everything we believed in and fought for for our whole lives, everything that built the wealth and strength of this nation, is at risk.”

He said it was time to rekindle “the California dream” and “lead the nation in 2008 back to Democratic leadership and progressive values after the dark ages of George Bush and Dick Cheney.”

More applause.

He is proud, he said, to stand up to Schwarzenegger and noted that the Los Angeles Times had recently called him the “anti-Arnold.”

“I take that as a compliment,” he said.

There is only one thing he has in common with Schwarzenegger, Angelides said. The governor said at last year’s Republican Convention in New York that he was inspired to enter politics by former President Richard Nixon. Angelides said he, too, was inspired by Nixon, though for very different reasons.

“I hope to give [Schwarzenegger] the chance to leave office as abruptly as his political hero did in 1974,” he said to a hearty round of applause from the faithful.

Angelides talked of the corporate greed that had drained the workers’ pension funds in the state since the beginning of this century.

“The right likes to bash teachers, bash nurses, bash all of us who choose to serve the largest public interest,” he said.

He treasury administration, he said, had invested $3 billion of pension fund money in local communities rather than into overseas sweatshops. The state government, he said, must appeal to the hopes of “ordinary Californians.”

“When the governor tried to close the doors to our great universities and colleges, when he tried to strip away all the money from academic outreach and college preparation programs for poor and disadvantaged students, we stood up for the college dreams of hundreds of young people hungry to achieve in this state and to make us great.”

He warned that everything the Democrats had worked for in the state was under assault by the current governor, “who came into office promising to be the people’s governor, a governor who unfortunately at each and every turn, when he’s had the choice, has sided with special interests over public interests and the interests of ordinary working Californians.”

He criticized Schwarzenegger for not asking the state’s millionaires to pay more in taxes, particularly at a time when the state is broke and the president has cut federal taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

“Last year [Schwarzenegger] had the audacity to tell 25,000 young kids who had made all the grades and done all the work that this richest state in the wealthiest nation in the history of humankind didn’t have room for them at our state colleges and universities.”

He hit the governor for not closing off-shore tax loopholes for corporations doing business in California, a theme he hit on when he last came to Chico during the recall election of Gov. Gray Davis. Instead, he said, the governor raised college tuition fees.

“Here is a governor who won’t ask pharmaceutical companies to make prescription drugs more affordable to Californians, but he vetoes a minimum-wage bill that would have allowed families some dignity and put bread on the table.”

He closed by saying that on this day, the governor “got into his big Hummer and he drove over to Applebee’s [in Natomas] and said he was going to take his case to the people of California.”

“You know what? We are going to take our case to the people of California. We’re going to defeat this governor, and we are going to win for the California dream.”

The Demos stood and applauded, and Angelides, after taking a few friendly questions from the faithful, excused himself, saying he had to go to Las Vegas to meet with the executive counsel of the AFL-CIO. He received a warm response from the union folks scattered among the crowd.