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Arnold Schwarzenegger steers clear of contentious issues at San Jose Republican Party Convention

By Anna Molin, Bay City News Service

February 25, 2006

SAN JOSE (BCN) -- A standing ovation greeted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as he came to deliver his keynote speech last night at the California Republican Party's convention in San Jose.

The governor steered away from contentious issues that have polarized party members in the past and focused on building support among his Republican base.

"We Republicans have a history of boldness,'' Schwarzenegger said.

"Abraham Lincoln struck down slavery. Teddy Roosevelt fathered the environmental movement. Dwight D. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. And Ronald Reagan tore down the wall and defeated Communism. This is a time in California's history that calls for similar boldness.''

The governor touched on his $222 billion plan to restructure roadways, schools, levees and ports without mentioning the $68 billion in general obligation bonds the 10-year plan calls for to pay for the improvements.

"He made a decision to avoid going into the details,'' said Joe Fleischman, who was in attendance tonight. "I think he had an opportunity to hit a home run and I say he hit a double.''

Most Republicans seemed eager to back their candidate, booing vigorously at the mention of the Democratic alternatives for governor.

"We got a choice and we can move the state forward or we will go backwards,'' said state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, a candidate for controller.

"I mean look at what our choices are,'' he said of Schwarzenegger's competition for the state's top job.

The governor noted briefly that although all Republicans may not agree on some issues, they have the same core values at heart.

"We have a record we can be proud of, a record we can run on, and a record we can win on,'' he said. "Are things perfect? Of course not ... we still need to put the pressure on our federal government with the job of securing our borders. We need to secure our economic growth and we need to pass Jessica's Law.''

Schwarzenegger's speech comes at an important juncture in his bid for re-election in November. The governor must revitalize his Republican base, which tends to favor his economic policies of fiscal responsibility but disagrees with his more moderate stands on social issues.

At the same time, he needs to win back the trust of Democrats and Independents, who showed their disapproval of his recent policies by rejecting all of his propositions in the November 2005 special election.

One issue that appears to have struck a chord with both liberals and conservatives is the need for revitalizing the state's declining infrastructure.

Schwarzenegger said of California residents, "They are tired of sitting on gridlocked roadways. They are tired of their kids trying to learn in overcrowded classrooms and, after Katrina, they are rightly worried that they are one huge storm or one big earthquake away from a major Katrina-type disaster.''

Just yesterday, the governor proclaimed a state of emergency for California's levee system, directing all state government agencies to utilize their personnel and resources to alleviate the threat of catastrophic levee failure following a high-magnitude earthquake in the Sacramento Delta region.

However, the governor did not mention yesterday's proclamation in his speech tonight, nor did he touch on the contentious issue of raising the state's minimum wage, which he has pledged to do.

A group of Republican college students staged a half-hour protest outside the hotel this afternoon to oppose the minimum wage increase.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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