Walking the tightrope: GOP warrior takes on own party

Ten years ago, Ray McNally was one of the hottest Republican political consultants in California. His firm, McNally Temple Associates Inc., served the GOP’s A-List: President George Bush the elder and the younger, former Gov. Pete Wilson, gubernatorial candidate Bill Jones, the California Republican Party and the Republican National Committee. For years, McNally Temple was the go-to firm for the Legislature’s Republicans.

But in recent years McNally has been wooing Democrats, and now he’s working against the agenda of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, earning praise from Democrats for his courage and a bitter denunciation from Republicans who see his work as a betrayal of the party. McNally, who describes himself as “very much a Republican,” works hand-in-glove with top Democratic strategist Gale Kaufman

“In this business, you usually have to stick to one side,” says Garry South, a Democratic political consultant who himself worked across party lines with Schwarzenegger’s Republican political strategist Mike Murphy on three initiative campaigns last year. South currently advises Controller Steve Westly in his gubernatorial bid.

“If you go to the other side, you get ostracized and excommunicated and people are suspicious of you,” South says.

This year, McNally has produced all the television commercials for the Alliance for a Better California, the union coalition spearheading the effort against Schwarzenegger’s “year of reform.” McNally’s ads are widely credited with helping destroy the Governor’s approval ratings, which plummeted from a high of 65 percent last September to a new low of 37 percent in June, according to the Field Poll.

There’s more: Less than a month before the October 2003 recall election, McNally incorporated a new consulting firm, Independent Campaign Group Inc., which made independent expenditures on behalf of Democrats in the most competitive legislative races in 2004, including Senator Mike Machado of Stockton and Assemblywoman Nicole Parra of Bakersfield.

McNally is president of the Independent Campaign Group, which spent nearly $1 million in independent expenditures to help elect Democrats last year. When asked why he established a second firm

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