For months, the campaign of Controller Steve Westly has been warning that, eventually, Treasurer Phil Angelides would turn into a sort of Democratic bogeyman. There was good cause for the warning; Angelides' track record as a slash-and-burn campaigner is well documented. And, in fact, the campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor may yet turn nasty.
But it hasn't happened yet, despite Westly's protestations.
This was the week Angelides -- abandoning his pipedream that all those endorsements might allow him to cruise home as the front-runner -- decided to engage his opponent. At a speech he billed as a major turning point in the campaign, Angelides decided on Wednesday to start to lay out differences between the two.
The central theme: Westly was too chummy with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2004 and, in deference to the governor's sky-high popularity, did not stand up for issues of importance to Democrats.
Indeed, Westly was mostly supportive of the governor in 2004, even when his budget proposal called for increasing college tuition, rolling back benefits for the blind and disabled and reducing the number of children eligible for state-subsidized healthcare. Surely, now that he's seeking the Democratic nomination, Westly must have suspected these things would become an issue.
"My primary opponent talks of his commitment to education," Angelides said. "But at the very time I was fighting Governor Schwarzenegger's plan to eliminate college preparation programs for disadvantaged kids, Steve Westly said of him, and I quote, 'My job is to make this guy successful.'
"Hey, everyone's got a job to do," Angelides sneered. "My job was to stand up for Democratic values and fight for what was right."
Westly's response to this was to complain that the campaign had turned negative. "Desperate candidates," he said, "do desperate things."
Westly protests too much. He's going to have to address this issue. Indeed, it is the essence of a campaign: Where did the candidate stand on the issues yesterday, where is he today and where will he be tomorrow?