Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rebuffed requests from leading California Democrats that he break from his special election campaign long enough to ask President George W. Bush for more federal money. The Republican governor said he was too busy before the Nov. 8 vote to meet with the president during Bush's two-day stop in Southern California on Thursday and Friday.
But Schwarzenegger also said he was not happy that Bush was raising money in California so close to the special election.
"We would have appreciated it if he had done his fundraising after Nov. 8," Schwarzenegger said Wednesday. The governor has yet to reach his US$50 million fundraising goal to promote his ballot initiatives, which would curb the power of the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Democrats criticized the governor's decision to skip the Bush events, saying Schwarzenegger is putting politics ahead of the needs of the state.
"Apparently, the only thing that the governor is collecting is special interest money," said Assemblyman Dario Frommer, a Los Angeles Democrat.
In his campaign for governor during the 2003 recall election, Schwarzenegger railed against California's status as a so-called "donor state" by sending more money to the federal government than it received.
In 2003, California received 78 U.S. cents (euro cents) in goods and services for every US$1 it sent to the federal government in taxes, according to the Washington-based Tax Foundation. That's partly due to the state's residents being younger than the national average, meaning California gets less Social Security and Medicare funds.
Schwarzenegger vowed to secure more than US$50 billion and pledged to return so much money to California that he would be become known as the "Collectinator," a reference to his "Terminator" movie role.
Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said Thursday the governor has been active in returning money to California for homeland security, transportation and anti-crime programs, according to the AP.
Also Thursday, Schwarzenegger tried to downplay questions about his relationship with the president. "President Bush is always welcome to California," he said.
It's not the first time the governor and Bush have failed to connect. Schwarzenegger, citing a scheduling conflict, was absent when Bush stopped in San Diego and Rancho Cucamonga in August.
Public opinion polls show California voters have a low opinion of both men. Schwarzenegger supporters fear that appearing with Bush, who lost both his presidential elections in California, could alienate the independents and moderate Democrats who Schwarzenegger is trying to woo for his special election.