Democrat Angelides to Face Schwarzenegger

A close, contentious California primary race was finally decided early Wednesday morning. State Treasurer Phil Angelides won the Democratic nomination for governor, narrowly beating out Controller Steve Westly. Angelides will run against Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fall.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

A close, contentious California primary race was decided early this morning. State Treasurer Phil Angelides won the Democratic nomination for governor. He'll run against Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fall.

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports from Sacramento.

INA JAFFE reporting:

Late last night, it still wasn't clear who'd won the Democratic nomination for governor when the candidates came down to address their supporters.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

CROWD: Go, Phil, go! Go, Phil, go!

JAFFE: While speaking to a packed hotel ballroom in his hometown of Sacramento, Phil Angelides was feeling confident.

Mr. PHIL ANGELIDES (2006 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, California): Now it's early in the evening, but things are looking good.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JAFFE: In Los Angeles, his opponent, State Controller Steve Westly, sounded hopeful, but also told the crowd that the race was too close to call and they should be prepared to wait a long time for good news.

Mr. STEVE WESTLY (Defeated 2006 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, California): My friends, we've run a terrific campaign and we're going to be running a good campaign for another day or two, it looks like.

JAFFE: But while the candidates were still on edge, California votes were breathing a sigh of relief that this campaign was finally over. It was dirty, divisive, and expensive. Westly and Angelides were not that far apart on the issues, yet they attacked each other relentlessly on TV with Angelides saying that Westly was a, quote, "twin of Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger", and Westly accusing Angelides of ravaging the environment during his former career as a real estate developer.

All told, they spent around $70 million trying to win over the voters who told pollsters they were disgusted and confused by the campaigns, and many just stayed home.

Finally, about half-past midnight, Phil Angelides returned to the ballroom and declared victory.

Mr. ANGELIDES: Our lead continues to grow, and I'm confident that I'll be hitting the road first thing tomorrow morning as the Democratic nominee for Governor of the State of California.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JAFFE: Then, Angelides launched into what sounded like his first campaign speech for the November election.

Mr. ANGELIDES: This election will be a choice between Governor Schwarzenegger, who's talked a good game but failed to deliver, and who's turned his back on hard-working families - a choice where we can elect someone who you can count on to stand up for the hard-working families who make this state great.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JAFFE: The man whom Angelides hopes to beat was not silent last night. Arnold Schwarzenegger told supporters at his headquarters in Sacramento that he looks forward to taking his message to the voters.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): I'm a people person. I live to be out there with the people of California. I like to travel up and down the state, go in the restaurants and go into business in the shops and into factories, and go walk around in the street.

JAFFE: But the governor should also get ready to take some hits, said Angelides' senior adviser, Bob Mulholland. Though Schwarzenegger's been doing everything in his power to distance himself from President Bush, who's very unpopular in California, Mulholland said the Angelides campaign won't let him get away with it.

Mr. BOB MULHOLLAND (Senior Adviser, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Phil Angelides): We have the videos of Schwarzenegger in Ohio hugging Bush. We've got the video of Schwarzenegger at the New York Republican Convention in 2004, and we have the videos of Bush and Schwarzenegger together in California. Schwarzenegger can't run fast enough to get away from those videos.

JAFFE: The long campaign for governor starts today, with Schwarzenegger taking a bus tour of several northern Californian cities, and Democrats trying to put the bloody primary campaign behind them at a unity rally in L.A.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Sacramento.

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