Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just introduced his new chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, the former executive director of the California Democratic Party and a onetime top aide to former Gov. Gray Davis.
“I make decisions a lot of times that are out of the ordinary,” Schwarzenegger said in an understatement. “I never get stuck in a mold.”
Schwarzenegger said he made about 30 calls today to friends and supporters to tell them about his decision, and “95 percent” of them reacted positively.
Kennedy, currently serving as a member of the Public Utilities Commission, said she thought it was time for moderates like her to “put up or shut up” in order to move the state beyond partisan gridlock.
“I believe in this man,” she said. “I believe in what he’s trying to do for the state and where he’s trying to take California.”
“This is not about being against Democrats. This is about being for change.”
Schwarzenegger thanked his current chief of staff, Patricia Clarey, for her service, and said she would work through December during the transition to Kennedy. He said Clarey told him last summer that she intended to leave the administration shortly after the Nov. 8 election. She was not at the press conference.
UPDATE: FlashReport publisher and former Republican Party executive director Jon Fleischman says he has received 600 emails protesting the Kennedy appointment -- and one phone call from the governor explaining himself.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:32 PM
I think the governor's decision to hire Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff is a smart move. The former Democratic Party operative and aide to Dianne Feinstein and Gray Davis is driven, dogged, and smart, knows the Capitol inside and out and presumably wouldn't be taking the job unless she were dedicated to Schwarzenegger's success. The fact that she is a Democrat simply furthers -- and emphasizes -- what has been an ongoing trend with Schwarzenegger hiring people with whom he feels comfortable, regardless of their ideology. This administration has already been the most bipartisan, in terms of personnel and appointments, of any in recent times, despite significant spin to the contrary.
Right-wingers who are gnashing their teeth at the moment need to remember that, except on economic issues, Schwarzenegger has never been a conservative. He supports abortion rights and gay rights, and takes environmental advice from a real Kennedy: RFK Jr. His most important adviser, meanwhile, has always been his wife, Maria Shriver, a Democrat and Kennedy family member.
That's not going to change no matter who is on his staff. And on economic issues, Susan Kennedy of late has been sounding a lot more like Milton Friedman than like her former bosses. She is a Democrat who believes her party has lost its way in always looking first to government regulators rather than individual initiative and free markets to solve problems. Sounds like a perfect fit for Schwarzenegger to me.
The early speculation is that hiring Kennedy will hurt Schwarzenegger with Republican voters. I don't buy it. Most voters will never know who is in the governor's inner circle. And virtually all voters will judge Schwarzenegger on his results, not on his choice of advisers. If Kennedy helps Schwarzenegger accomplish the goals he has set for his administration, she will help him get reelected.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:40 AM