Wasting no time after the June 6 primaries, the labor movement and the California Democratic Party are already gearing up to unseat Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November.

Democratic nominee Phil Angelides immediately came out swinging, outlining positions sharply differing from Schwarzenegger’s on issues including health and education. On election night, Angelides said he would work to extend health coverage to all Californians, and pledged to go after “the HMO profiteers.” The next morning, he promised to greatly improve California’s public schools, cut tuition and fees at public universities and make California a leader against global warming.

Labor, which spearheaded last year’s defeat of Schwarzenegger’s destructive ballot measures, was decisive in Angelides’ victory. In a low-turnout primary, union members voted in significantly greater proportion than did others, and their support for Angelides was much higher, said California Labor Federation Political Director Bryan Blum.

The labor movement looks forward to waging “a very vigorous campaign” to defeat the governor, Blum said. “In 2005 it was a matter of beating back Schwarzenegger; now we can go on the offensive and remove him from office.”

Member education including a worksite program will start soon, Blum said, while “a big volunteer army” will begin phoning and knocking on doors “earlier than ever.”

Though Schwarzenegger’s attempt to “reinvent himself” as a moderate has had some impact, analysts say most voters continue to think the state is headed in the wrong direction.

Labor is also targeting the 11th Congressional District contest between incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Pombo and Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney. The Republican-leaning district, centered in the Central Valley, touches the edges of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey took nearly one-third of the primary vote after sharply criticizing Pombo’s anti-environment record and closeness to Washington corruption scandals.

“In a general election where a lot more moderates come out, Pombo’s in serious trouble,” said McNerney campaign manager A.J. Carillo. “When people learn about his stances on the issues, they realize he is an extremist who is wrong on the environment, wrong on energy policy, wrong on ethics reform on Capitol Hill — pretty much wrong on every issue.”

By contrast, Carillo said, McNerney is “reaching out to moderate Republicans who want change, who are disgusted with the waste and corruption in Washington, a budget that’s leading us to financial ruin.”

McNerney, a wind power consultant, differs sharply from Pombo on environmental issues. He supports a firm timetable for U.S. withdrawal, along the lines advocated by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

In the also Republican-leaning 4th CD, reaching from Lake Tahoe north to the Oregon border and west toward Sacramento, incumbent John Doolittle faces Democratic challenger Charlie Brown, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Doolittle has been embroiled in Washington corruption scandals around lobbyist Jack Abramoff and jailed former California Congressman Randy Cunningham.

“I want to be a part of a return to integrity, honesty and accountability in Congress,” Brown says on his web site. “It is shameful that a majority of voters do not trust their elected representatives and view politicians negatively.”

“Charlie’s a timetable guy, he also supports no permanent military presence in Iraq,” said Brown campaign spokesperson Todd Stenhouse. Brown also emphasizes caring for the troops and their families after they come home.

The nature of development in the fast-growing district, and environmental issues including flood control also play a big part in the campaign. Brown, a “smart growth” advocate, sharply criticizes Doolittle’s support for the controversial Auburn Dam project and calls for a more practical, cost-effective flood control program.

“At the end of the day,” said Stenhouse, “the people need a champion of their quality of life, not a champion of the profit margins of area developers.”

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