LOS ANGELES — California Democrats chose the candidate calling himself the "anti-Arnold" as the best man to unseat Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November.
State Treasurer Phil Angelides is a 15-year real estate developer and a multimillionaire. He was endorsed by state Democrats, and considered the more liberal of the two leading candidates in Tuesday's primary. He talks openly of raising taxes on the wealthy, legalizing gay marriage, and allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.
Claims from Mr. Angelides's political ads - an endorsement from the Sierra Club that he may become the "greenest governor" in decades - will be scrutinized between now and November.
Supporters tout him as a visionary who can balance the needs of the environment with the state's annual intake of some 600,000 new residents. Opponents say he has abused political clout by pulling off re-zoning for housing projects that have created his personal fortune.
"Phil Angelides won because he was endorsed by the state Democratic party, and labor unions and environmental groups and has won over the hard core of the Democratic party," says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.
Other political observers here say Angelides - who defeated State Controller Steve Westly by 48 percent to 43 percent - is not so much the winner as the "last Democrat standing." Weeks of TV ads in which both candidates tarred each other rather than touted their own accomplishments capped off several months of negative campaigning.
The result is that Mr. Schwarzenegger, whose approval ratings have improved slightly in recent months because of increased tax revenue, is in a position to take advantage of the recent invective.
Angelides will present a starker contrast for voters than the more moderate Mr. Westly would have, observers say. And as Schwarzenegger did when he campaigned for governor in the 2003 recall election, Angelides will seek to position himself as the outsider, providing a change from politics as usual in California.
"Angelides will have his work cut out for him [in facing] a well-known celebrity opponent with the power of incumbency," says Kareem Crayton, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. He needs to "highlight the negative spots in the governor's first two years and link [him] to the wildly unpopular national Republicans."
Political observers say Angelides is a brilliant, tough campaigner who is long on governing ideas and strategies, but short on personal charisma. "He has a good face for radio," says Mr. Stern.
In the other closely watched vote in the state Tuesday, Proposition 82, which would have given the state's some 550,000 4-year-olds a chance to attend preschool, was defeated. Prop. 82 was expected to affect similar movements in other states. Voters bought the arguments that the measure - funded by a 1.7 percent tax on incomes over $400,000 - would add layers of bureaucracy, and possibly tie up billions of dollars of state revenue that might be better used on K-12 education.
Prop. 82 was endorsed by teachers' unions and education officials, but its popularity dwindled in the final weeks as most newspapers in the state editorialized against it.
"[Prop. 82's] sponsors violated the cardinal rule to keep it simple," says John Matsusaka, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. "They wrote a bunch of things into it that the opposition was able to raise voter's doubts on."
Despite the loss, supporters of Prop. 82 say they have begun to advance their agenda. "We have gotten out the message clearly that the advantages of universal preschool are as unassailable as global warming," says Nathan James, spokesman for Yes on 82. "We have started a national conversation."