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Putting a Face to the Name: If you received a tax rebate from the state in the past two years, state Controller Steve Westly was the one who signed your check.



Gubernatorial is a word that's awkward to pronounce, hard to spell and hellish to translate into Austrian.

Despite those drawbacks, it keeps on popping up, as the 2006 governor's, or should we say gubernatorial, race heats up.

Things got especially steamy last week when a Field Poll showed Gov. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER trailing state Treasurer PHIL ANGELIDES and state Controller STEVE WESTLY, the only two Democratic challengers so far to toss their hats into the gubernatorial ring.

Both Dems lead Arnie by four points, which is barely outside the poll's 3.6 percent margin of error. Arnie's camp of course dismissed the poll as irrelevant, noting that the election is 17 months away, a timeline Arnie's campaign spokesman TODD HARRIS described as "longer than eternity in politics."

That said, here in the Cruz, Nüz can't help noticing that locals have been throwing house parties for Stanford-educated Westly, while Harvard-educated Angelides got the la-di-da treatment with a reception and fundraiser at the Darling House which happens to be owned by Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee chair DARREL DARLING.

Asked if the fundraiser means he's backing Angelides, Darling sidestepped the question.

"I'm pleased at the sense of unity that Democrats in California are expressing and the strong field of candidates going into the primary," said Darling, claiming he'd be happy to have "Angelides, Westly--or even WARREN BEATTY, if we're going Hollywood--trounce the governor, or TOM MCCLINTOCK, or whoever the Republicans field."

Snowball's Chance

As for whether Republicans might field Santa Cruz's very own BRUCE MCPHERSON, who lost his bid to become lieutenant governor in the 2002 primaries, but who Arnie appointed as secretary of state last year, Darling said, "I like and respect Bruce, but someone who has already lost in a primary doesn't stand a snowball's chance in warm weather.

Meanwhile, termed-out Assembly-member FRED KEELEY disagrees. Keeley, who returned to Santa Cruz last year and was appointed county treasurer in January 2005, believes that McPherson has to be on the list of Republican names that are seriously being considered.

"He's the only Republican who's got the political profile--he was an assemblymember and a state senator, he now holds a statewide constitutional office and he has a moderate profile that would appeal to California voters," opines Keeley, noting that other potential candidates have a 100 percent record of voting with President Bush , which, Keeley claims, is a "huge monster problem in California."

Bondage Questions

McPherson's chances aren't the only topic on which Darling and Keeley disagree. To Darling's mind, the defining difference between Angelides and Westly is that after the recall, "Westly came out in strong support" of what Darling calls "Arnie's bond issue," while Angelides came out in "strong opposition."

Asked why he characterizes the bond issue as belonging to Arnie, Darling admits he wasn't close enough to the backroom wheeling and dealing to see how the bonds were put together.

"But the bonds as they were finally slated by Arnold were not the bonds a Democratic administration would have, or should have, engineered. I thought it was a serious mistake from the beginning."

Keeley has a different take on the political implications of the bond event.

"Phil Angelides did oppose the bonds, but Democratic leadership in both houses and a very wide coalition of groups supported them. The governor had to negotiate that deal with the legislature."

To Keeley's mind, Propositions 57 and 58 (as the bond measures were called) were "a compromise solution to a very dangerous and bad financial situation, in which the state was facing three alternatives: raise taxes by $15 billion; cut $15 billion from health, human services, education and corrections funding; or sell bonds to close the gap and hope a recovering economy will allow a more rapid repayment than the bond schedule allowed. It was a very wide bipartisan agreement. I don't think there's a person in government who thought it was a good idea. It was more a case of bad, worse or worst idea.'

Future Perfect

While on the topic of Arnie, Keeley predicts that the governator won't run for election in 2006.

"He'll fall on his face and never get up; and going to the ballot this fall will be his Waterloo," says Keeley, who sees Arnie's fall in the polls as evidence that "Arnie squandered the political capital he once had."

Combat Stress

The UNITED VETERANS COUNCIL is hosting a Combat Stress Peer Support Training Program on July 9 at the Vets Hall. Program coordinator RICHARD ANDERSON says police, doctors, counselors, local politicos and veterans will attend to learn the basics about dealing with combat stress on the community level. Call 831.454.0434 or email [email protected] to sign up for the free training program.

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From the July 6-13, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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