Tags: GOP | Sees | Vulnerable | California | Governor

GOP Sees Vulnerable California Governor

Friday, 08 February 2002 12:00 AM

The governor's job approval has hovered in the 36 to 39 percent range since May 2001. And just under a third of registered voters give him good marks in his handling of schools, the state's economy, electricity issues and the state budget. Nearly half say Gray did a poor job of handling the state's electricity crisis in 2000.

"It takes Gray Davis really to help a Republican win," predicts Hoover Institution research fellow William Whalen, a former speechwriter for Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. "The election ultimately becomes a referendum against Davis.

"One of Davis's problems is that the more voters look at him, the less they like him," said Whalen. While Californians are typically uninterested in what the governor is doing, he said, the energy crisis brought Davis under unusually close voter scrutiny.

At the moment, the California governor is weathering political pressure to return the more than $100,000 in political contributions he received from the scandal-tainted Enron Corp., once a major player in state and federal energy policy.

Even if the Enron matter is resolved, Davis faces a more general perception problem.

Forty-eight percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans tell pollsters that the governor's approach to governing is overly cautious, according to a recent poll. Around half or more voters on both sides said Davis is more likely to do what is politically popular and said they would be more inclined to support the Legislature on key issues.

Perhaps in response to the less-than-rosy job evaluation, he has launched a multimillion-dollar television ad campaign against the front- runner in the GOP primary, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. One prominent ad blasts the pro-abortion-rights Riordan as a foe of abortion rights, a charge intended to get the attention of female voters.

Still, it's early in the election year and, Whalen says: "If you look at polls across California right now, people are hard-pressed to know there's an election. And they're just starting to realize that there [are] three Republicans on the ballot.

"It gets complicated when you consider the Olympics start tomorrow night," he added, which "wreaks [havoc] on candidates' strategies, because the one way you reach people in California is TV. You have a problem with that when people are tuning in to watch one program."

California is one of 36 states holding gubernatorial elections in 2002. Democrats now hold 11 of the seats, with 23 held by Republicans and two held by independents.

A spokesman for the California Democratic Party could not be reached for comment.

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The governor's job approval has hovered in the 36 to 39 percent range since May 2001. And just under a third of registered voters give him good marks in his handling of schools, the state's economy, electricity issues and the state budget. Nearly half say Gray did a poor...
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2002-00-08
Friday, 08 February 2002 12:00 AM
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