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STATE REPUBLICANS SCOLD ARNOLD PARTY STILL PLANS TO CAMPAIGN FOR HIM.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

SAN JOSE - Republican dissidents aired their gripes about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the state convention wrapped up Sunday, with surprisingly strong numbers of party members taking aim at some of the governor's economic policies.

Party members were critical of the governor for failing to fully balance the budget, proposing massive borrowing in his infrastructure plan and failing to appoint more Republican judges.

``This is not a convention that comes out of here unified or supporting the governor,'' said Michael Schroeder, a former party chairman who led efforts to criticize the governor's economic policies.

But most Republican critics said while they might disagree with some of the governor's policies, they still support his bid for re-election and will do the volunteer grass-roots work necessary to run the campaign.

``I want him re-elected, but that doesn't mean when he has policies that are different from the Republican mainstream's that we shouldn't say so,'' said Stephen Frank, a newsletter publisher from Simi Valley, who was critical of the governor's support of a minimum-wage increase. ``Today, the mainstream of the Republican Party spoke out. The message was sent to the governor and his policy people that they have to be more cautious and more Republican in their programs.''

The party's general session passed a resolution urging the governor to appoint more Republican judges and shelved a measure that would have endorsed Schwarzenegger's $222 billion infrastructure program because many Republicans disagreed with his plan to borrow $68 billion to help finance it.

Party members, noting the state still has a long-term structural deficit, also stripped another resolution of language that would have praised the governor for signing balanced budgets.

Ultimately, the leading resolution to criticize the governor's economic policies, including his support for a minimum-wage increase, garnered substantial support and debate, although it failed to get the two-thirds vote required to adopt it after it was rejected in committee.

But the general session gave the governor, his policies and accomplishments far more praise - as in resolutions about his efforts in workers' compensation, public safety and illegal immigration - than criticism.

Party Chairman Duf Sundheim said that the debate was healthy for the party and that Republicans left united behind Schwarzenegger, even if critical of a few of his policies.

``What was very clear is that we are unanimously behind him,'' Sundheim said. ``As (Sen.) Tom McClintock said (Saturday), we agree on at least 80 percent of the issues. What we had (Sunday) was a discussion about those issues. A clear majority support the governor's position, but there are people that disagree. We think that's a healthy part of the process.''

The convention came as Schwarzenegger continues to lag in polls, and analysts say he has yet to reach the levels of support within his own party needed to sustain a strong re-election bid.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California survey found that only 35 percent of California adults approve of his job performance, down 5 percent in a month, and 53 percent disapprove. Among Republicans, 66 percent approve and 24 percent disapprove. Some party members feel the governor would need to have 80 percent support from Republicans to succeed in November.

Schwarzenegger, in Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association conference and a meeting with the president, addressed the concerns in an appearance on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

He touted his achievements - creating new jobs, boosting state revenue and reforming workers' compensation - and said he governs for the whole state, not just the Republican Party.

When asked by host Tim Russert if he would run as a ``Bush Republican,'' Schwarzenegger replied: ``I will run as an Arnold Republican, which is that I am there to govern and to serve the people of California, meaning Democrats and Republicans, even though there are some on the right wing that are not happy about that, that think I should only govern for Republicans.

``But that's not what I promised the people of California. I always promise that I will serve everyone.''

Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 27, 2006
Words:678
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