Big-League Endorsements for Calif. Assembly Race

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After a stunning win in the March primaries for the
Democratic nomination to represent California's 80th Assembly district,
former Morongo chairwoman Mary Ann Andreas received another boost with the
endorsement of former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard
Dean.

Andreas is vying to be the first American Indian woman elected to the
California state Assembly.

Not to be outdone, the incumbent Assemblywoman for the 80th district,
Bonnie Garcia, received a boost of her own with the endorsement of current
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The big-league endorsements are the latest sign of just how important it is
for the national parties. It is certainly not common for candidates to
receive such big endorsements this early and it underscores the fact that
it is expected to be a very tight race.

Both women won their primaries with roughly the same number of votes, which
is also unusual for an Assembly race where incumbents are expected to win
handily. Garcia received 22,309 votes in the Republican Party primary,
while Andreas received 22,224 for the Democrats.

Democrats had already been eyeing the district since the 2002 election,
which Garcia won by a narrow margin. In all she beat her then opponent,
Joey Acuna Jr. by a 51.8 percent - 48.2 percent margin in a district that
had recently been gerrymandered to favor the Democrats.

In all, registered Democrats in the current 80th Assembly district
outnumber Republicans by a 44 percent - 41.5 percent margin. However, it is
the makeup of the Democrats in the district that helped allow Garcia to
win.

The 80th Assembly district covers a wide area of inland Southern California
desert and has a high Latino population. The Democratic voters also tend to
be more blue collar and conservative than their counterparts in the state's
urban areas and college towns. Garcia's 2002 opponent Joey Acuna Jr. was
seen as fairly liberal and it may have cost him votes against Garcia.

However, Andreas views herself as a centrist and has emphatically stated
before that she is not a liberal, which might seem to put her at odds with
former Gov. Dean who was viewed as left-leaning during the Democratic
presidential primaries because of his famous denunciation of the Iraq War.

Political consultant to the Andreas campaign Eric Jaye disagrees with this
perception of Dean and said that the endorsement of Andreas shows that both
are "independent thinkers."

"Howard Dean is, if you will, a populist and he respects the independent
thought that Mary Ann [Andreas] brings to the table," said Jaye.

Taking away Dean's stance on the Iraq War, most of Dean's policies and
precedents had shown him to be a centrist by any kind of academic measure.
During the primaries, when the focus shifted away from Iraq, Dean often
touted his fiscal policies including his balancing of the Vermont state
budget while he was governor.

"We are looking to recommend candidates that are socially progressive and
fiscally responsible," said Laura Gross, a spokeswoman for Democracy for
America, an organization that has its roots in the Dean campaign and now
handles the candidate endorsements.

Andreas is one of a dozen candidates, known colloquially as "Dean's Dozen"
endorsed by the Dean organization. Gross said that they were selected from
people at the "grassroots" level or from within the Democracy for America
organization. Andreas was among those nominated by people in her local
area.

Gross denies that Dean is only endorsing candidates in competitive races
and points to Dean-endorsed candidate Richard Morrison who is running
against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in Texas, a post he is not likely
to win.

When listing the group of "populist" and "independent" candidates, into
whose mold Andreas fits, Jaye mentions not only Dean but Gov.
Schwarzenegger as well.

At first glance Schwarzenegger's endorsement of Garcia might also seem to
be an odd fit. Especially when taking into account that Schwarzenegger has
issued few of his highly-coveted endorsements thus far. Whereas Dean is
perceived as liberal and Andreas moderate, the paradigm shifts with the
Republicans as Schwarzenegger is perceived as a moderate, particularly on
social issues, and Garcia as very conservative.

Garcia's campaign manager Oliver Rockroi downplays the ideological
differences between Garcia and the governor and points out that Garcia was
an early supporter of Schwarzenegger's recall candidacy last year. It
should be noted that one of the prominent displays in Garcia's office is a
picture of her with the governor.

"Both of them [Garcia and Schwarzenegger] are committed to a number of
common issues such as solving the budget crisis, and a strong record of
fiscal conservatism," said Rockroi.

Calls to Schwarzenegger's office on the question of the endorsement were
not returned by press time.

Speaking to the issue of facing an American Indian candidate in Andreas in
a district with several tribes, Rockroi also said that Garcia has been
endorsed by at least one tribe in the district, Palm Spring's Agua Caliente
tribe, whose chairman, Richard Milanovich has been active in Republican
politics.

However, most district tribes have already signaled that they are ready to
endorse Andreas as has the California Nations Indian Gaming Association,
the largest Indian gaming lobby group in the state.