Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed an open secret Friday, telling supporters that he's running for re-election next year - an early announcement designed to re-energize his sagging political momentum.
Schwarzenegger had hinted as much for weeks, saying Wednesday he wanted to stay to fix the "broken system" of state government. Privately, advisers have urged the Republican governor to declare for months, though the election isn't until November 2006, three years after he arrived in Sacramento in triumph following the historic recall of Gray Davis.
The announcement was timed to coincide with the state Republican convention in Anaheim, which Schwarzenegger will address Saturday afternoon.The challengers already are lining up. State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly have announced they will seek the Democratic nomination. Two liberal Hollywood luminaries, director Rob Reiner and actor Warren Beatty, also have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Schwarzenegger, whose popularity among Democrats and independents has eroded badly, must generate enthusiasm within his party's base if several ballot initiatives he has championed are to pass in a Nov. 8 special election. Strategists have said the governor must cement his re-election plans now to improve his fundraising for the initiatives, which would establish a state spending cap, strip lawmakers of the power to draw political boundaries and make it harder for public school teachers to get tenure. Recent polls show none receiving majority support.
Schwarzenegger was immensely popular his first year, but his job approval ratings have dropped sharply in recent months. His decision to push the ballot measures generated a backlash from labor unions, which have spent millions on television ads since the spring to discredit him.
A nonpartisan Field Poll released last week found that just 36 percent of California voters are inclined to re-elect Schwarzenegger. Protesters have tracked his appearances across the state and hours before Friday's event, about 150 demonstrators representing unions, nurses, teachers, firefighters and gay rights activists chanted outside the meeting hall, San Francisco Chronicle reports.