Campaigning around California last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides sharply criticized Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his close ties with giant corporate interests, and continued to stress working-class families’ need for greater access to health care and higher education.

In Oakland Oct. 28, Angelides reminded union members rallying at Alameda County Central Labor Council headquarters that the governor who pledged not to deal with special interests has instead presided over “the biggest corporate interest pig-fest in our country’s history.” Even so, he noted, Schwarzenegger has never reached 50 percent in the polls.

Pledging that as governor he would instead “be on the side of the hardworking people of this state,” Angelides said, “all the people working two and three jobs know that Schwarzenegger and Bush won’t lift a finger for them. They’re counting on us.”

The previous day, Angelides addressed the state convention of the NAACP. There, state President Alice Huffman said that while the NAACP can’t endorse candidates because it is tax-exempt, she could “tell you when we have a lifelong friend … someone who will speak truth to power.”

Pointing out that only 3 percent of freshmen at the University of California this year are African American, that 800,000 California children lack health insurance, and more young African American men go to jail than to college, Angelides told the audience, “There’s something wrong in America, in California today, but we can make it right.”

He was later joined at a Los Angeles rally by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, California Democratic Party chair Art Torres and other leading Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced last week that it was giving extra support to Democratic candidates in four California congressional districts. On their “Red to Blue” list are Jerry McNerney in CD 11 (running against Republican Richard Pombo in the Central Valley), Charlie Brown in CD 4 (opposing Republican John Doolittle in the Sierra foothills) and Francine Busby in CD 50 (opposing Republican Brian Bilbray in north San Diego County). On their “Emerging Races” list is David Roth in CD 45 (opposing Republican Mary Bono in south Riverside County).

Despite President Bush’s fund-raising appearances with Pombo and Doolittle at the beginning of October, Democratic challengers McNerney and Brown each reported raising far more money last month than the Republican incumbents. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18, McNerney raised $416,000 to Pombo’s $343,000, and Brown took in $416,000 to Doolittle’s $207,000.

Both Pombo and Doolittle are caught up in the scandals swirling around convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, though neither has so far been indicted. Both are also suffering from their support for President Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Their challengers emphasize good government and support setting a timetable to withdraw from Iraq. As public concern grows over environmental issues, voters in Pombo’s district are increasingly worried about his anti-environment record of seeking to destroy the Endangered Species Act, sell off national park lands and encourage offshore oil drilling.