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GOVERNATOR GOP'S FAST CHOICE FOR '06.

Byline: David M. Drucker Sacramento Bureau

California Republicans on Sunday formally endorsed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's candidacy, signaling his intention to run for re-election in 2006 and squashing any chance for a legitimate GOP challenger.

Schwarzenegger has yet to announce his re-election plans, but that didn't stop the California Republican Party from adopting a rules change enabling the organization to endorse a candidate before the emergence of a victor in the party's June primary election.

By endorsing the governor now, the party can immediately begin raising money to aid his re-election, rather than wait until just five months before the November 2006 contest to promote his bid.

``All the guns are pointed toward the other team, which is where we want them to point,'' said party Vice Chairman Ron Nehring. ``We are united and ready to move forward.''

Schwarzenegger's endorsement was nearly unanimous, but for a tiny smattering of ``nay'' shouts among the 1,288 party delegates who voted by proclamation Sunday morning on the final day of their annual spring convention. The motion to endorse the politically moderate governor was carried by two conservative state legislators.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine seconded the endorsement motion by urging fellow Republicans to ``get on the train'' - a reference to a line from Schwarzenegger's speech to party activists on Friday, when he likened his agenda to a ``train that has left the station'' and advised opponents to ``join and jump on the train, go and stay behind and just wave, or get in front of the train, and you know what happens then.''

State Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said the endorsement also lets the governor know party activists and elected officials are eager for him to run for re-election. ``This sends a message that the Republican Party is solidly, 100 percent behind Gov. Schwarzenegger and his agenda,'' Dutton said.

Schwarzenegger has repeatedly declined to comment on his re-election plans, but his deputy chief of staff, Cassandra Pye, used her remarks to party delegates to thank them ``on behalf of my boss'' for their endorsement.

Campaign finance laws prevent political parties from working for a candidate's campaign without a formal endorsement, so Sunday's action clears the way for Schwarzenegger's political team to cooperate with the state party to raise money for his candidacy and tout his agenda.

Depending on the outcome of the primary election for other statewide offices, the Republican ticket in 2006 could include two San Fernando Valley-area Republicans, as Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks is running for lieutenant governor and Assemblyman Keith Richman of Granada Hills is running for treasurer.

``I can already see a very strong Republican ticket reversing the bad election we had in 2002,'' said former Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 14, 2005
Words:454
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