PUTTING IT ON THE LINE
Perhaps the biggest subplot on the March 2 ballot is the determination of which Democratic state officeholder will come out of the election in better position for a run for governor in 2006: Controller Steve Westly or Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Westly has definitely gained name recognition by agreeing to co-chair with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the committee in support of Propositions 57 and 58. He co-stars with the governor in a television commercial that features the two talking and coming together in a show of bipartisan support. If the measures passes, Westly's star will rise. Although many believe Westly, in his first term as controller, will bide his time and wait until 2010 to make a run for governor, his actions of late suggest he might be looking at 2006 instead.
Angelides has stepped up as the only prominent Democrat to speak out against the bond measure and is using the campaign against Propositions 57 and 58 to preview themes for his all-but-certain gubernatorial campaign. Listening to him speak to a state PTA gathering in Sacramento on Tuesday, it was clear he had found a message: It's time for California to make the necessary sacrifices to assure a brighter future.
"The measures on the March 2 ballot will say a lot about where we are and what we are as a society," he said. "It's time we sacrifice for our children and not lay debts upon them."
His message is laced with Clintonian Democratic themes: Invest in education, eliminate deficit spending, target tax incentives toward the middle class.
Given that the deficit bond was trailing in the polls from the start, Angelides may find himself in the potentially enviable position of being able to take credit for helping to defeat a measure that was going to lose in any event. And he can say that he was the only one who had the courage to stand up to Schwarzenegger, whose political standing would be damaged by a loss.
Still, it's a high-risk strategy for Angelides. If the bond measure fails, and severe budget cuts to education and health programs are enacted as a result, he will surely take some blame for damaging programs dear to Democratic hearts. And then, Westly will be able to say, "I told you so."