Maria Shriver refused to take a stand Thursday on the political agenda of her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying, "We all know what happens to first ladies who shoot their mouths off _ they get sent to first ladies' dungeon, and you wouldn't want that to happen to me."
Shriver's remarks came at the opening session of the California Governor and First Lady's Conference on Women and Families, an annual conclave the Kennedy family member embraced as her signature event since her Republican husband was elected two years ago.
In recent months, Shriver has kept silent about a series of Schwarzenegger-backed measures on the Nov. 8 ballot that could undercut the influence of California's public employee unions and the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.
She told the audience that it is possible to "survive life in a bipartisan marriage, in an increasingly polarized and partisan world."
"You certainly can let people know that you love and believe in your husband, even though people on one side scream for you to denounce him and the other side screams for you to support him," she said, referring to the bitter protests over the ballot measures.
Schwarzenegger is pushing four ballot measures in the special election. They would extend the probationary period for teachers and make it easier to fire them; require public employee unions to obtain written permission from members to use their dues for political purposes; impose state spending limits and authorize the governor to make midyear cuts; and strip lawmakers of their power to draw districts.
Shriver praised Schwarzenegger as a "good and courageous man" whose only agenda was to improve California.
"The Arnold I know is open-minded. He's not right-wing, he's not left-wing," she said. "Even in the face of attacks and criticisms, he is an eternal optimist. I admire that about him."
Others scheduled to appear at the conference include Schwarzenegger, Jane Fonda, Tom Brokaw, singer Mary J. Blige and retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, AP reported. V.A.