Political pros chart the course of almost every major campaign in
California. The state’s top strategists increasingly are wooed and pursued
as more and more candidates turn over the reins of their campaigns to these
But not Phil Angelides.
The state treasurer, and candidate for governor, instead has hired his
longtime friend, Cathy Calfo, as his campaign manager. Calfo, who has
managed each of Angelides’ three previous statewide runs, has never run a
statewide campaign for another candidate.
With a friend managing his bid for governor and with no high-profile
consultant giving him strategic advice, those close to Angelides say the man
behind the campaign and in front of the cameras is one and the same. So,
whether there is ultimately blame or credit to go around after the June
primary, much of it will rest with Angelides himself.
In other words, it’s all about Phil.
“He is certainly not an empty suit automaton with consultants winding him
up, programming him full of focus-group-tested hand gestures and having him
read poll-tested dribble on a teleprompter,” said Dan Newman, Angelides’
campaign-communications director in a non-too-subtle jab at rival Steve
Westly, who has surrounded himself with political professionals.
But as Angelides, the former chairman of the California Democratic Party,
stumbled in early polls, at one point falling behind Controller Steve Westly
by double-digits, some blamed the candidate-centered structure of the
campaign for Angelides’ sagging support.
“It is never a good idea for a candidate to serve as their own strategist
because they need someone who has some distance and perspective,” says Darry
Sragow, a Democratic consultant and veteran of five statewide campaigns. “It
is no different than the idea that an attorney shouldn’t be his or her own
client or a doctor shouldn’t be his or her own patient.
“And Phil has that reputation,” adds Sragow.
Few candidates have successfully run for governor in recent years without an
outside consultant at the helm of their candidacy. The last winning
candidate with a reputation for calling his own shots was Jerry Brown, who
was first elected governor in 1974, well before the current 24-hour media
cycle. Even former-Gov. Gray Davis, the consummate micro-manager, turned to
spinster Garry South to run his 1998 bid for governor.
Today, South is the chief strategist for Westly. Team Westly also includes
David Doak, a veteran television-ad producer, and former Davis aide Roger
Salazar. Of course, Westly, like Angelides, has personal friends in high
posts within his campaign. Greg Larson, who Westly has known since their
days at Stanford, is the campaign’s vice chairman. Paul Rosenstiel, another
college buddy, is the policy director.
As Angelides slipped behind Westly, criticism among Friends of Phil centered
on the campaign’s lack of response to Westly for the first months of the
campaign, the decision to go off the air with television ads last month, and
the quality of Angelides’ ads themselves. Political insiders have begun
rumbling about who is really making the critical decisions in the campaign.
“When political insiders get together and talk about this campaign the
questions come up: ‘Who is Angelides’ strategist? Who is doing the TV ads?
Who is calling the shots?’ And the answer is we don’t know so it must be
Phil,” says Sragow.
Some Democrats say there have been serious missteps by the Angelides
campaign along the way. “It feels like they never really believed that
Westly would spend his money,” said another Democratic consultant, who spoke
on the condition on anonymity. “They were surprised and seemed caught
flat-footed. And that seems outrageous.”
But Calfo, a former executive director of the state party in the early
1990s, dismisses concerns about the way the Angelides campaign has been run.
She says the recent dip in the polls was expected and that, following the
party’s endorsement, Angelides’ numbers are rebounding.
“We expected to drop in the polls,” said Calfo. “[In] California politics