Governor’s Failures Put Spotlight on CA Dems

Rough sledding ahead : Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably happy to see 2005 coming to an end. But after the trouncing his initiatives received in November’s special election, he enters 2006 in a much weakened position. The question now is, will the Democrats who control the Legislature step up to the plate:

If this stalemate plays out, leaving Arnold hamstrung and unable to get his way, it’s hard to see why he would chose to follow through on his run for re-election next year.

“The power has shifted back to the Legislature,” said Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer (D-Glendale). “I think the Democrats are in the driver’s seat.”

Much of the core of the Democratic Party is disinclined to give the Republican governor any political victories that might help get him reelected next year, lawmakers and lobbyists say.

Labor unions, which have substantial influence over the Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate, are still furious with the governor for trying to weaken their benefits and political influence. Emboldened by their success in leading the fight against Schwarzenegger’s four initiatives last month, they are expected to adopt an even more aggressive posture when lawmakers return to Sacramento on Jan. 3.

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure not to do anything with the guy,” Frommer said. “You have a Legislature that, quite frankly, is not too happy with him. And you’ve got a Democratic Party and a lot of the constituencies that are pushing hard to keep the governor on the mat in order to set the stage for whomever the Democratic nominee is next year.”

He’s not too popular in his party, either. And this does not bode well:

Most GOP lawmakers are more conservative than Schwarzenegger, but he needs their support because two-thirds of the Legislature is required to pass the state budget and to put measures on the statewide ballot.

“The reality is, nothing gets done unless Arnold Schwarzenegger can persuade at least six Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to go along,” said Tim Hodson, director of the Center for California Studies at Cal State Sacramento.

Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said his members “think they will have a bigger say than they have had in the past, because the bigger issues that are going to hit this year are all two-thirds votes.”

If this stalemate plays out, leaving Arnold hamstrung and unable to get his way, it’s hard to see why he would chose to follow through on his run for re-election next year. After all, being a movie star is a whole lot easier and more fun than politics – not to mention a lot more lucrative.

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