Schwarzenegger Continues Push for 'Reform' Agenda

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to pursue a controversial political agenda that has little support among voters, according to recent polls. This week there is a deadline for making changes that could affect the fall special election ballot.


Some politicians would be in a frenzy if they were the subject of a front-page news story about marital infidelity but not California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who has shrugged off such a story. A Los Angeles Times report about his alleged seven-year relationship with a film extra and masseuse named Gigi has yet to push politics from the center stage. In fact, the focus in California is still squarely on the upcoming special election. Schwarzenegger called it to promote his reform agenda as NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE reporting:

Arnold Schwarzenegger had some good news last week, courtesy of the state Supreme Court. The justices ruled that one of the pillars of his agenda, a measure to change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn, could remain on the November ballot. That had been in doubt after the embarrassing revelation that the governor's supporters had submitted one version for the ballot and circulated a different version for voters' signatures. The Supreme Court ruling was a big win for Schwarzenegger, says Republican political strategist Arnold Steinberg.

Mr. ARNOLD STEINBERG (Republican Political Strategist): I think it's of great significance because of the symbolism. I mean, the governor's had a lot of defeats and it gives him some momentum.

JAFFE: It certainly took attention away from the LA Times story about Gigi Goyette, the movie extra and masseuse who claims to have had a relationship with Schwarzenegger for several years.

Mr. STEINBERG: The story didn't have legs, no pun intended. Unless there's something that's really going to be big news, it's pretty much going to die down.

JAFFE: Goyette gave tabloid publisher American Media an exclusive on her story for $20,000, but it was never published and some pundits have questioned whether American Media was trying to protect Schwarzenegger. The company also owns the muscle magazines the governor worked for until a couple of weeks ago. He quit when it was revealed that he was paid about a million dollars a year by those magazines at the same time he was vetoing legislation to regulate the nutritional supplements which advertise so heavily in them. So Schwarzenegger will now energetically turn his attention to the three measures he's put on the special election ballot, says campaign spokesman Todd Harris.

Mr. TODD HARRIS (Schwarzenegger Campaign Spokesman): These are the very reforms that this governor was elected to implement.

JAFFE: One of them is the measure that would take away the power of lawmakers to draw legislative and congressional districts and give it to a panel of retired judges. Another would give the governor new powers to cut state spending. The third would lengthen the time it takes public school teachers to earn tenure.

Mr. HARRIS: When Governor Schwarzenegger came into office, there were very high hopes that he could come to Sacramento and fundamentally reform the way that this city operates and therefore we are full speed ahead to get these things passed.

JAFFE: But Schwarzenegger may have to struggle to get attention for his three measures. There are eight initiatives on the ballot all together and some of the others deal with hot-button issues like abortion, prescription drugs and the money that labor unions pour into political campaigns. Roseanne DeMarco, the executive director of the California Nurses Association, says there's an easy way out for voters: Just say no to everything on the ballot.

Ms. ROSEANNE DeMARCO (California Nurses Association): It's no on this election to mandate against the governor to stop using the political process. This state is not his toy.

JAFFE: The California Nurses Association has been one of Schwarzenegger's loudest antagonists. They followed him around California and across the country, demonstrating outside of campaign events and fund-raisers. They'll be in Boston next week when Schwarzenegger goes to raise campaign cash. For $100,000, supporters can share his box at the kickoff concert of The Rolling Stones' American tour.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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