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Schwarzenegger’s Platform Not Yet Defined

August 7, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Arnold Schwarzenegger took even his political advisers by surprise when he said he was running for governor, and his candidacy dramatically reshaped the California recall election. But what does he stand for?

While the Austrian-born actor’s accent and trademark quips are familiar to millions, he has offered few clues about how he would handle California’s knotty problems, from a staggering budget deficit to an affordable housing shortage to traffic gridlock.

His public comments Thursday, a day after he announced his candidacy on ``The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,″ didn’t offer much illumination.

The first media question Schwarzenegger faced after picking up candidacy papers at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s office: ``What is your plan to cut the state budget?″

``We will have a plan very soon, a detailed plan on how to face those kinds of problems and how to solve those kinds of problems,″ he responded. ``The important thing to know is that we have a crisis here in California. We have a $38 billion budget deficit that we have to deal with.″

He avoided specifics, saying he wanted to ensure that all Californians had ``a great job, a fantastic job″ and that he would focus on children’s issues. But the former body-builder likely will have to start outlining at least some of his plans in detail if he wants to muscle through a half-dozen seasoned politicians, from Democrats to conservative Republicans, with gubernatorial ambitions as fierce as his own.

Before announcing his candidacy, Schwarzenegger’s lone foray into state politics came last year, when he drafted and successfully championed Proposition 49, a state ballot initiative aimed at dedicating as much as $550 million annually to before- and after-school programs.

``You all know that I am very passionate about children’s issues,″ he said Thursday. ``I’ve been involved in education and after-school programs for 10 years.″

He also focused on political reform, criticizing the influence of special interest groups in the state Capitol.

``What we have right now in Sacramento is self-interest first _ self-interest of the politicians, self-interest of special interest groups, and we have to reverse all that,″ he said. ``It’s public interest first.″

Democrats immediately attacked Schwarzenegger as inexperienced and not up to the job.

``It’s fine to say you’re going to clean house. It’s another thing to know what you can do and what you can’t do under the California Constitution and the laws that have been established to date,″ Sen. Dianne Feinstein told CNN. ``And I don’t think people are going to fall for old cliches.″

And for Republicans to the actor’s right politically, the moderate Schwarzenegger could be a target for his social views. He has described himself as ``very liberal″ on social issues,″ noting that he favors legalized abortion, gay adoptions and ``sensible gun controls,″ including a ban on assault weapons.

Schwarzenegger has other vulnerabilities, including allegations of groping and womanizing. When he contemplated running for governor last year, a Davis strategist bombarded newsroom fax machines with articles detailing such claims _ and one of the same negative articles already has re-circulated.

Schwarzenegger denied the allegations at the time, and some of his co-stars came to his defense. During his appearance on the Leno show, he quickly sought to inoculate himself against such charges, saying he knew the attacks against him would include branding him as ``a womanizer.″

He vowed he could take it.

Last year’s re-release of the film that first made him a star in the United States, the acclaimed 1977 documentary ``Pumping Iron,″ also brought scrutiny when it was noted that Schwarzenegger was smoking marijuana in one scene.

``I did smoke a joint and I did inhale,″ he told The Associated Press. ``The bottom line is that’s what it was in the ’70s, that’s what I did. I have never touched it since.″

News of Schwarzenegger’s candidacy resonated in his Austrian home village of Thal _ population 2,138 _ where the former hometown boy received some cautionary advice from Mayor Peter Urdl.

``We’re happy for him, and we’re sure he’ll make it,″ Urdl said. ``But he will have to realize that as a politican you cannot chose between roles, and you have to accept whatever comes your way.″

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