State GOP leaders will back Arnold’s re-election

first_imgSACRAMENTO – State GOP leaders on Thursday tried to snuff out the political firestorm that followed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointment of a Democratic activist, saying they are committed to his re-election next year. GOP loyalists feared that chief of staff Susan Kennedy, a one-time aide to former Gov. Gray Davis, would be in a position to hear about party strategy for the 2006 elections and influence the governor’s policies. The governor and California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim emerged from an hourlong meeting ready to put the Kennedy appointment behind them. “I think he made it very clear that she is there to implement his policies,” Sundheim said. “She’s totally committed to that, and we support his decision. He has the right to pick who he feels would do the best job to implement his vision.” He said the Kennedy appointment is likely to remain alive through the California Republican Party convention, scheduled to begin Feb. 24 in San Jose. The party’s board of directors asked for the face-to-face meeting with the governor after receiving a wave of complaints from grass-roots organizers. The meeting was held at a hotel across from the Capitol. Schwarzenegger has taken at least two significant steps since appointing Kennedy to assuage the critics from within his party. He appointed a former Republican assemblyman as his cabinet secretary and created a new position, deputy chief of staff, that also was filled with a Republican. After the meeting, he said he felt all issues had been addressed. “They wanted to hear from me that we are going in the same direction as we have the last two years,” the governor told reporters in a hotel hallway afterward. He said the message he wanted to convey to party leaders was “that they should judge me based on my actions, rather than based on who I hire.” At a news conference earlier in the day, Schwarzenegger said he respects his Republican colleagues and characterized the meeting as a “time to let off some stream.” Neither Schwarzenegger nor Sundheim would divulge many details about their discussion, but Sundheim said it partly addressed concerns by GOP strategists that they would have to go through Kennedy when coordinating with the governor. He said he was assured that party leaders would be able to contact Schwarzenegger directly. “As far as we are concerned, as soon as we came out of the room, the Susan Kennedy issue is over,” Sundheim said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake A staff shake-up in Schwarzenegger’s administration was anticipated after voters rejected all four of his government-reform initiatives in the Nov. 8 special election. But many conservatives were caught by surprise when Schwarzenegger named Kennedy on Nov. 30 to replace Patricia Clarey, a one-time aide to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. In addition to being a former top aide to the governor Schwarzenegger replaced, Kennedy is a former director of an abortion rights group and once worked for Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Her appointment so upset the president of the California Republican Assembly, a conservative wing of the state party, that he suggested party leaders should reconsider their endorsement of Schwarzenegger’s re-election bid next year. The president, Mike Spence, did not attend Thursday’s meeting and reacted to it with less enthusiasm than Schwarzenegger and Sundheim. “The issues are still there,” he said in a telephone interview afterward. “The chief of staff has intimate knowledge of the policy and political agenda of whoever they serve. She’s the filter that everyone and everything passes. She’ll have enormous influence.” last_img

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