(CNSNews.com) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has created a rift among conservatives in California. While some are willing to accept the actor's liberal social views for a GOP victory, others fear he might damage the party's pro-family agenda.
As voters prepare to cast their ballots Tuesday in the Golden State's recall election, conservatives remain divided between Schwarzenegger, who has moderate to liberal social views, and state Sen. Tom McClintock, a staunch conservative Republican.
With the campaign winding down, however, some conservatives have come to grips with Schwarzenegger's views as long as he is able to defeat Democrat Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
"I came out of my meeting with [Schwarzenegger] very reassured that indeed, he will be a better conservative than my conservative friends think he will," GOP Assemblyman Ray Haynes told CNSNews.com. "And if he's not, I'll fight him."
Haynes likened Schwarzenegger to Pete Wilson, California's last Republican governor, who also frustrated conservatives at times for his views on social issues. But Haynes said Wilson was an ally compared to Democrat Gov. Gray Davis, who is one of the friendliest governors to homosexuals.
"Even if Schwarzenegger and Wilson are very similar on a lot of this stuff, Schwarzenegger is going be very good," Haynes said. "He told me to my face in those areas where the governor can actually affect the outcome, 'I will be with the pro-life community. I will be with the pro-gun community. I will be with the social conservatives.'"
Schwarzenegger's campaign website states that he opposes partial birth abortion and supports parental notification. Although he supports the Second Amendment, he is in favor of the assault weapons ban. And while he has praised equal rights for homosexuals, he opposes same-sex marriage.
But Schwarzenegger's critics have questioned those positions, noting the website also states: "I support the state's current family planning programs, and as governor, would make no changes to this policy." It also says: "I do believe that gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based on their relationship."
The political action committee Save California has called on Schwarzenegger to drop out of the race, citing poll figures that show McClintock beating Bustamante in a head-to-head contest. Randy Thomasson, the organization's treasurer, said he fears Schwarzenegger could strip the Republican Party of its pro-family values.
"Schwarzenegger is against Republican Party values and against family values," said Thomasson, who founded the Campaign for California Families. "The Republican establishment that has sold out to support him ought to have their heads examined."
In the weeks leading up the vote, Schwarzenegger has picked up key endorsements from the California Republican Party, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon and Rep. Darrell Issa, who financed the recall drive.
McClintock, meanwhile, has the support of prominent conservatives who include Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and former presidential candidates Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer.
But McClintock has also had several conservatives, and in some cases friends like Haynes, join Schwarzenegger's campaign. Many endorsements include praise for the state legislator for the work he has done and the values he represents.
Chuck Muth, president of Citizen Outreach and former executive director of the American Conservative Union, said he's in Schwarzenegger's camp even though he's not enthused by all of the candidate's positions.
After all, Muth said, McClintock shares many of the same views as Simon, who lost to Davis last year. Muth doesn't want to see that happen again, especially when Republicans have the chance to put an ally in the governor's office for the 2004 presidential election.
"I'm not saying a strictly pro-life candidate can't win California," Muth said. "But with California being the way it is today, it doesn't hurt that he's more moderate or temperate on that issue than some other candidates."
Thomasson used last week's news of Schwarzenegger groping women to compare the actor to former President Bill Clinton. However, Muth said, "When you compare what Bill Clinton did in office while he was president to what Arnold did as a movie actor dating back 30 years, the two aren't even close to being the same."
Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who supports Schwarzenegger, said votes for McClintock only benefit Bustamante and California's liberal interests. He said that's one reason Republicans haven't wavered in their support for Schwarzenegger, even in times of trouble.
"I haven't seen a single Republican elected official change his or her mind about Arnold," Hewitt said.
See Earlier Story:
Conservatives Attack Schwarzenegger on Abortion, Homosexual Marriage (Oct. 1, 2003)
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