By Jonathan Beckhardt
Trailing by as much as 20 points in his race for governor, Democrat Phil Angelides has turned to the Iraq War -- the issue supposed to galvanize the nation's left -- and made it a state issue by today vowing to "do everything in [his] power" to bring home the approximately 800 California guard troops deployed in Iraq.
"A Governor's first responsibility is to ensure the safety of the people of California," Angelides said at a rally at San Francisco State University devoted to the issue. "And a governor cannot do that without a strong National Guard, [which is] our crucial defense against domestic disorder and natural disaster."
"What does Governor Schwarzenegger say about the pressure the war has put on our precious citizen soldiers, on their readiness for earthquake, flood, or fire?" Angelides said.
Angelides said he will "put in a formal request to President Bush to return our National Guard units" on his first day in office. Then he will "mobilize governors from across this nation to force a change in national policy- so guard units can be used for their intended purpose, not propping up the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld excuse for a foreign policy.”
Though not saying what legal options he might be able to exercise, Angelides said he would "take any action, including going to court," to carry out his pledge.
The new stand differs from the position he took in May, where at a Primary debate he said governors do not have the power over the Pentagon to bring state Guard troops home from war.
According to the California National Guard, the federal government provides about 85 percent of the funding for the National Guard, though this varies according to the amount the Guard is serving the federal government. The guard is under the command of both the state and federal government, though the federal government's power over the force supersedes the state's power over the force.
According to the Angelides campaign, 275 Californians have died in Iraq, 21 of whom have been members of the Guard.