In an effort to appeal to anti-war voters at SF State, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides said if he were to be elected, he would demand on his first day in office that California National Guard troops be returned from Iraq.
Entering the final month before the Nov. 7 elections by speaking to around 150 students and faculty at what was called a “rally against the war” in Jack Adams Hall on Tuesday, Angelides’ pledge is seemingly a shift in campaign strategy to link his opponent, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, with President Bush and the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.
“I’ve been plain about my views on George W. Bush’s war in Iraq,” Angelides said. “It is wrong for our country and wrong for the Californians who are fighting and dying there.”
Gov. Schwarzenegger’s steadfast alliance with President Bush and his support of the Iraq war is compromising the safety of Californians because National Guard troops, should be reserved for national disasters and domestic order, not a war based on lies, Angelides said.
“You see, a governor’s first responsibility is to ensure the safety of the people of California,” Angelides said, “and a governor cannot do that without a strong National Guard.”
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 9,000 California National Guard troops have been deployed overseas and 21 have been killed in Iraq. Angelides said the state’s National Guard is currently 20 percent below what is should be.
The elaborate event, in which Angelides’ staffers served free pizza and Mayor Gavin Newsom and Assemblyman Mark Leno spoke, was met with both supporters and opponents who simply do not believe he is a genuine anti-war candidate.
“He’s an opportunistic Democrat,” said Karen Knoller, 19, an SF State student and a member of Students Against War. “He’s talking left because he knows he’s not going to win the election.”
According to previous news reports, the latest Field Poll shows Angelides trailing Gov. Schwarzenegger by 17 points.
During Angelides’ speech, Knoller and other SAW members held up signs reading, “your party supports the war” and “your party is anti-immigrant.”
At one point, Angelides’ staffers attempted to block the signs by holding up larger pro-Angelides signs.
But for the most part, the rally, sponsored by SF State’s College Democrats, reinforced Angelides’ base of democratic voters and drew students and faculty who just wanted to hear what he had to say.
“He understands my needs probably more than Arnold would,” said Colin Coutinho, 24, an SF State grad student studying adult education who plans on voting for Angelides. Those issues, he said, are increasing college tuition and healthcare.
Professor Linda Ellis, chair of SF State’s California Faculty Association contingent, came to the rally not only because the CFA has endorsed Angelides, but also to hear how Angelides plans to catch Gov. Schwarzenegger in the race.
“He’s got to be on the offensive, not the defensive,” Ellis said.
But she also questioned the effectiveness of Angelides’ new campaign tactic in pairing Schwarzenegger with President Bush.
“That’s national politics,” Ellis said. “All politics is local.”
Michelle Montoya, an SF State student and current Northern California College Democrats vice-president, disagrees, saying the majority of Californians do not support President Bush, but Gov. Schwarzenegger repeatedly declares his support for Bush and the Iraq War.
During the 2004 presidential election campaign, Gov. Schwarzenegger campaigned with President Bush in Ohio, then a closely contested state.Although Angelides said he would work to make sure California National Guard troops are pulled out of Iraq, a rebuttal by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaign says he would not have the legal authority to do so.
“Phil Angelides is spewing political rhetoric calling for action he knows is both illegal and unconstitutional in another shameless effort to try to get traction in the polls,” said Katie Levinson, a spokeswoman for the governor.
If need be, Angelides said, he would go to court to fight for the return of California’s National Guard troops and would even mobilize other state governors to demand a change in national foreign policy regarding the use of state National Guards. “California cannot afford a governor who is blind to the damage this wrong-headed war is doing to our state and national security,” Angelides said.
Lee Wolf, an SF State College Republican attended the rally not to support Angelides, but to hear what he had to say and for the free pizza. He said Gov. Schwarzenegger has the election wrapped-up.
“The real issue is in the vote,” Wolf said. “It would be shocking if an eighth of this room even votes.”