Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An unlikely pair

Susan Kennedy held a meeting with advisers to discuss the state's budget crisis in the governor's smoking tent at California's capitol in mid-June.
Slide show

More from Gov. Schwarzenegger about Ms. Kennedy's work in the capital.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his effort to end the partisan bickering that is pushing California to the brink of insolvency, is deploying Susan Kennedy, his cigar-smoking, paintball-playing Democratic chief of staff, to get the job done.

The 48-year-old Ms. Kennedy has built a reputation as a pragmatic leader equally inclined to work with -- and lambaste -- lawmakers from both parties. Such a regard would have been unthinkable five years ago, when Republicans viewed her as a stereotypical Democrat -- a former director of the state party and top aide to Gov. Gray Davis who lives in famously liberal Marin County with her partner.

Unlikely allies, yet Arnold is a pragmatist, as she clearly is, too.

She didn't always have a cordial relationship with Republicans, the governor included. When Mr. Schwarzenegger won the 2003 recall election -- ousting Gov. Davis, her former boss -- Ms. Kennedy said, she "was as angry and as much of an anti-Arnold person as any Democrat was." Mr. Schwarzenegger said he regarded her as part of a gubernatorial administration in which "everything that they did was wrong."

Though often critical about California Democrats, Ms. Kennedy raised money for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and said she has no intention of dropping her party affiliation. "My wife would kill me," she said.

Great line.

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