Thursday, March 24, 2005
State Treasurer Phil Angelides says a “Dump Nixon” poster on a Harvard bulletin board first inspired him to work on a political campaign. It’s no coincidence that at last summer’s Republican National Convention, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he, too, was inspired to get into politics because of Nixon.
Angelides wants Schwarzenegger’s job. He’s been called the “anti-Arnold.” He campaigned forcefully last year against the governor’s $15 billion borrowing plan to balance the state budget, and has said that he can’t name a single Schwarzenegger action that he admires.
He’s also the first Democrat to declare his candidacy for governor in 2006. And he’s already won the endorsements of two of the state’s highest profile Dems: US Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Last week, Angelides kicked off his run for office at CSU Monterey Bay’s Black Box Cabaret, standing with his wife Julie and oldest daughter Megan, while the ‘Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started” blared in the background. Angelides criticized the governor’s “Charles Darwin fiscal policy” and “Marie Antoinette tax policy,” which, he says, hamstring the state’s ability to invest in schools, the environment, infrastructure and good jobs.
A couple of days later, the Weekly caught up with Angelides to talk about his campaign.
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Weekly: You talk about your Greek heritage a lot. How does it influence your politics?
Angelides: It influences it greatly in a number of respects. As I said in my announcement speech, my grandparents came here—on my father’s side—from Greece, and worked day and night so my dad could go to college. My mother, an immigrant of Greek descent, did the same, working long hours as a seamstress, so I could have even more chances. It does affect my thinking because I believe that’s the way California should be, where one generation is always willing to do whatever is necessary so the next generation can have a better chance.
Our forebearers here built a great university and community college system. In the 1950s, the leaders of California made investments, made sacrifices so that we could do better today. At the heart of my campaign is this: That we are not keeping the faith with future generations. Rather than asking the wealthy to sacrifice or closing tax loopholes, this governor has tried to turn away young people from entering college. I’m in this race because I believe we have a duty to the next generation.
As an American of Greek decent, I come from a culture that values democracy. My father always encouraged me to be a public servant. I went on to be a very successful businessman. But my father always told me that the highest calling was to be involved in democracy, through public service.
Weekly: Why did you declare your candidacy so early?
Angelides: Because each and every day, this governor, Governor Schwarzenegger is doing more and more harm to the people of California. He’s been raising student fees and tuition. He’s turned 25,000 kids away from our colleges and universities. He’s been attacking teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. He’s bringing the Bush-Cheney policies of massive debt, division and diminished opportunities here to California. He’s leading us down the wrong path and I intend to contest him for the governorship.
Weekly: You’ve criticized the Governor for restricting access to higher education and cutting programs that help the poor. On the other hand, you’ve made universal preschool a campaign promise. How will you pay for this?
Angelides: From the day this governor came in, I have opposed his policies of borrowing billions and saddling our kids with debt. We are the wealthiest state in the richest nation on earth; we have to make investments in education to compete in the global economy. It’s not a matter of if—we must.
With universal preschool education, if Oklahoma can afford it and Georgia can afford it, California can do it. I have said I’m not afraid of making cuts to the budget. But in the end we cannot starve education. In the end, if I was given the choice between cutting education and closing corporate loopholes, I would close corporate loopholes. If I was given the choice between cutting education and raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent, I would tax the wealthiest 2 percent. Life is about choices. Investing in education is the right choice.
Weekly: You have said we can solve the budget problem by raising taxes on couples earning more than $280,000 a year and closing “corporate loopholes.” Where will you make spending cuts?
Angelides: They are all tough. First of all, can we get efficiencies of 5 or 10 percent across the board in terms of staffing? Absolutely. In the end, what the governor has to do is balance the budget fairly. This governor has only asked for sacrifice from those who have the least, and from students. The governor is proposing to raise taxes this year—he’s proposing taking away property [tax] relief from the elderly, blind and disabled who make less than $37,000 a year. There’s just no fairness to the governor’s approach. What we need is a fair mix of taxes and cuts, and that’s what most Californians believe in, I might add.
Weekly: How are you going to win over independents and Democrats who supported the recall?
Angelides: Many independents and Democrats who supported the recall are becoming disappointed with this governor. He didn’t campaign to slash education and borrow billions and turn Sacramento into an all-you-can-eat, special-interest buffet. If he had, they wouldn’t have voted for him.
I believe Democrats and independents are going to be looking for someone who’s fiscally responsible and moves this state forward economically. I am a person who ran a business, who knows what it means to make payroll. I’m someone who’s going to bring fiscal responsibility back to state government and allow us to start investing in the future—not this governor’s scripted sound bites.
Weekly: At CSU Monterey Bay last week, you said that you support Sen. Gil Cedillo’s efforts to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, and the recent judge’s ruling that California’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Are you afraid of alienating voters?
Angelides: On a whole, together, in California our common interests are in educating our children, and investing in infrastructure. At the center of my campaign will be these things that hold us together. But I also believe that Californians deserve truthfulness. In the end, I believe I will be able to unite California around a powerful vision in investment in education and investment in our future and that these common interests are more powerful than the interests that divide us.