November 30, 2005

Schwarzenegger names Democrat top aide

By Adam Tanner

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California's Republican
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named a Democrat in a same-sex
marriage as his chief of staff on Wednesday in an apparent
political shift on the heels of a major electoral defeat.

Susan Kennedy, 45, was the confidant and number two to
ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger beat in
a bitter recall election in 2003. She married her lesbian
partner in 1999.

"I love Susan, I think the world of her," Schwarzenegger
told a news conference at the state capitol. "She is willing to
take her Democratic philosophy aside and implement my vision."

Despite his celebrity as a former Hollywood star and
champion bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger faces a challenge in
convincing a state in which Democrats are the largest party to
re-elect him in 2006.

Voters rejected him across the board when he sought support
for ballot initiative measures opposed by Democrats earlier
this month.

The appointment of a woman who once served as the
California Democratic Party executive director and has led
campaigns for abortion rights angered some Republicans.

"The appointment of Susan Kennedy as chief of staff to the
governor is a betrayal of the hard-working activists that
supported the governor during the recent special election,"
said Mike Spence, president of the California Republican

Another opponent immediately set up a Web site where visitors were urged to sign a
petition seeking to rescind the appointment.


Although reaching to the opposing political party for
senior staff appointments is relatively rare in American
politics, Schwarzenegger's top advisor is his wife, prominent
Democrat Maria Shriver.

He also says his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver --
sister of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy -- frequently
offers him political suggestions. Susan Kennedy is not related
to the family.

Former Gov. Davis, under whom Kennedy served as cabinet
secretary and deputy chief of staff, called Schwarzenegger's
choice brilliant.

"Susan is a remarkable public servant -- she believes in
governing from the center," Davis told Reuters. "She processes
information more quickly than anyone that I have ever known."

Kennedy, who served most recently on the California Public
Utilities Commission, described herself as a moderate Democrat
willing to put aside party differences.

"I'm tired of the partisanship," she said. "I felt it was
time for me as a Democrat to put up or shut up."

Schwarzenegger said that he had heard protests from about
five percent of those he told the news, but said he would not
change his political program.

"This is not about drifting anywhere," Schwarzenegger said.
"It doesn't change my direction at all."