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Gentlemen, Start Your $10 Million Engines

May
24
2005

Oh, goodie. California Democrats are going to get the primary they deserve. And everyone should watch this. It’s going to be important for the state and for the party.
Controller Steve Westly has written a $10 million check to his potential gubernatorial campaign. That’s as close to a declaration as we’re going to get until his scheduled announcement in mid-June, according to Beth Fouhy at the AP.
So it’s Westly, the Progressive libertarian from Silicon Valley v. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a traditional union-loving, Schwarzenegger-baiting Democrat from Sacramento. Now, Westly will quibble. He’s a real Democrat. But he’s really a business candidate; that’s why he worked with Schwarzenegger on the budget initiatives last year. And while Angelides is also a wealthy man, the political territory he’s staked out is to Westly’s left working most visibly to use the power of the state’s enormous employee pension funds into Wall Street oversight agencies.


Managed smartly by both candidates – and money won’t be an issue – this is going to be a good race; one that will limn clearly the different paths the Democratic Party can take toward the future.
Westly’s understanding of global economics is more refined that Angelides but that doesn’t mean he has all the answers to the challenges the party faces in a networked world; Angelides reliance on old-time religion – women’s issues, the state employee unions, ethnic groups and deep, deep roots in the party – doesn’t have the answer either. But he’s got strong and loyal support. Westly doesn’t have that within the party but he could well find it among the state’s growing number of independent voters.
But here’s the thing that could make or break the deal: Anglides is simply a better campaigner. Watching the two men at the opening day of the oversight committee for the California Center for Regenerative Medicine, was a rare moment of political theater. Neither man spoke – at any length, anyway – to the other. They worked and sat side-by-side, politely and smoothly performing their public duty. It was a study in ambition and style. Angelides is comfortable and funny as a campaigner. Westly, who has come miles since he first hit the stump campaigning for controller – an office he barely won — has mastered a shy self-deprecation and calmness that serves him well in public forums. He is earnest and likeable. But Angelides has a quick wit and grace in front of crowds that makes him attractive. And that, when all is said and done, will be where this fight is won or lost.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:55 AM | Permalink

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