Governor Faces Widening Network of Opposition
Gov. Faces Widening Network of Opposition
A diverse band of foes is using a blend of tactics to put Schwarzenegger on the defensive.
By Peter Nicholas
Times Staff Writer
March 16, 2005
SACRAMENTO ‘ Inspired by what began as an isolated protest by
California nurses, opponents of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are working
in a loose but widening network to thwart his policy proposals.
They are deploying an aggressive blend of demonstrations, legal
action and legislative maneuvers, forcing him to defend his agenda on
Firefighters and nurses are protesting outside his fundraising events.
Democratic lawyers are going to court in an effort to curb the campaign
money he’s taking in. Teachers unions are airing TV commercials
accusing him of pushing an education budget that shortchanges students.
Democrats are launching legislative inquiries into the
governor’s activities with a hair-trigger reflex, using the
investigative machinery under their control to probe Schwarzenegger’s
communications and fundraising methods.
With the governor’s approval ratings dropping and opponents
notching a recent victory in court, anti-Schwarzenegger forces say
they’ve shown that a movie star governor who appeared politically
invincible not long ago has been cut to human scale.
"There was a perception that this guy is too strong, too popular," said Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California.
"He has a special ability to get press coverage and hog the cameras,
and there was a sense you didn’t want to fight him head-on.
"The [California Nurses Assn.] was not concerned about that," Holober
said. "They were concerned about protecting patients’. They have shown
other unions and other opponents of the governor’s policies that when
he is wrong, you have to confront him and stick to the issue. And you
can beat him."
Today, more than 1,000 protesters are expected outside a
fundraising dinner Schwarzenegger has scheduled at the Westin Century
Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The maximum contribution is $89,200, in
return for which donors get perks that include a private briefing with
the governor, according to a copy of the invitation.
Nurses, firefighters, teachers and students are planning to appear.
Nurses have been the most tenacious group critical of the governor, and
they prevailed in a recent court battle, when a judge ruled that the
governor illegally suspended a law requiring more nurses in hospitals.
A Schwarzenegger spokesman said Tuesday that the governor is
not ruffled by the swelling opposition. He has proposed huge changes in
the state’s political system, making a backlash inevitable, said
Margita Thompson, the governor’s press secretary.
"If they feel threatened, that’s a good thing," she said,
"because the governor is here to represent the people’. They’re going
to be advocating for their own specific interests."
Still, Schwarzenegger has not ignored the volley of attacks. He is
forced to mention the protesters in many of his speeches; his audiences
in many cases have had to push past them to get inside. TV ads by
educators put pressure on him to respond. And as a defendant in newly
filed litigation over his fundraising, he will be compelled to defend
his position in court.
Schwarzenegger is courting legislative adversaries even as the political skirmishing escalates.
He played host to a dinner at his Brentwood home last weekend for
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu