MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Tomorrow California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to announce he will run for a second term. His approval ratings have sunk to around 34 percent, so it was not a foregone conclusion that he would want to stick around. But as NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, Schwarzenegger's announcement tomorrow may have more to do with the special election he's called for November than it does with the governor's race next year.
(Soundbite of band playing)
INA JAFFE reporting:
Arnold Schwarzenegger is now in full campaign mode. He spent the week going up and down the state speaking at invitation-only town hall events like this one at an auto parts factory in Riverside, east of Los Angeles. He told his audience that the initiatives he's backing on the November ballot are simply the second act of the recall that put him in the governor's office.
Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): But the same union bosses are all sitting there, the same legislators are still there, the same special interests, the corporations. All of those forces are still there, so, therefore, in order to get the reforms that we need, it is very important that you go out and vote on November 8th.
JAFFE: Schwarzenegger's stage was bordered on all sides by rows of Republican activists, Chamber of Commerce members and local officials. There were lights, studio-quality lights, ordered by the governor's people and cameras from the news media. The governor provided the action.
Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: And, remember, yes on 74, yes on 76, yes on 77, yes on 74, 76, 77. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes on those propositions.
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JAFFE: Propositions 74, 76 and 77 are the three reasons Schwarzenegger called the special election. One would give the governor more power over the budget. Another would take away state lawmakers' power to draw legislative districts and give it to a panel of retired judges. The third would make public school teachers wait longer to get tenure.
Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: And this is not a battle between Democrats and--vs. Republicans. This is a battle of the governor and you, the people of California, vs. the status quo and the big, powerful state employee unions. That's what the battle is all about, and we are going to win that battle.
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JAFFE: Unions have, undoubtedly, been Schwarzenegger main antagonists. Nurses successfully sued him over his attempt to cut staffing levels. Teachers say he borrowed money from the education budget and didn't pay it back. Cops and firefighters were up in arms over his aborted attempt to privatize their pensions. For months they've been hammering him in one TV commercial after another. This is the latest from the California Teachers Association.
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Unidentified Woman: Governor, school is starting again, and we are still waiting, waiting for you to keep your word and pay back the $2 billion you borrowed from the education budget. Instead of keeping your promise, you're wasting millions on a special election to...
JAFFE: The unions have been able to stay on the air with spots like this one because they've raised more money in recent months than Schwarzenegger has. And his need to fund his special election campaign is the real reason he's chosen this moment to announce he'll run for a second term, says political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.
Ms. SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE (Political Analyst): Everyone knows that contributions, particularly by business groups, Arnold's supporters, are investments. And they don't know that they're investing in a sure thing until he declares that he is running for re-election as governor.
JAFFE: But two of Schwarzenegger's three ballot measures are trailing badly in the polls. If the numbers hold through Election Day, Schwarzenegger will have to fight for re-election next year looking less like an action hero and more like just another struggling and vulnerable politician. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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