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Governor plans local visit

March 06, 2006|By Alicia Robinson

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger swings through Orange County this week, he'll be eating, drinking, and explaining his campaign strategy to a potentially fertile field of donors.

Today, Schwarzenegger's having lunch with the New Majority in Newport Beach, and Wednesday evening it's cocktails in Costa Mesa with the Orange County chapter of the Lincoln Club.

Some Republicans have ripped the governor for allowing a bloated budget, appointing a Democrat as chief of staff and otherwise alienating some party voters, but he likely won't face many harsh accusations from the lunch and cocktail crowds.

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The Orange County-based New Majority has been a major financial supporter of the governor. Tom Tucker, the group's founding chairman, estimated the New Majority and its members have raised close to $10 million for Schwarzenegger and his various initiatives.

The governor seems to have overcome most of the reservations the two donor groups had. They've been largely won over by Susan Kennedy, the chief of staff whose past as a staffer for former Gov. Gray Davis raised Republican blood pressures, and they liked the initiatives from the November 2005 special election, though all failed with voters.

In fact, Lincoln Club President Richard Wagner said he's concerned that Schwarzenegger capitulated too easily after the initiatives failed.

"So we lost, but he made the other side have to spend a lot of money, and he exposed that they're truly desperate to maintain the gravy train, and I don't think that's bad," Wagner said.

Overall, the two groups are satisfied with Schwarzenegger's performance in his first term, but they will question the governor closely about the multi-billion dollar infrastructure bond issue he's proposing and his appointment of non-Republican judges.

"Our conservative Republicans would look at any Democratic judge and immediately be unhappy because they assume it's going to be a liberal judge if he's a Democrat," said Dale Dykema, who belongs to the Lincoln Club and the New Majority.

This week's event will be the governor's first meeting with the Lincoln Club, so there will be a fair amount of hand shaking and picture taking. The New Majority will want to hear about Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign, but members should offer a supportive audience.

"There's no great rift at all," Tucker said. "Clearly we're stakeholders in his campaign."

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