LOS ANGELES – California Democrats lashed out at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) during their annual convention Saturday, vowing to block his administration's agenda in an extraordinary reversal of good will toward the celebrity governor.
Schwarzenegger, whose push for controversial government reforms has enraged labor unions and other traditionally Democratic constituencies, came under withering attack as speaker after speaker chastised his leadership abilities.
"The governor has declared war on the state of California," Assemblywoman Judy Chu said. "He declared war on us and I declare war on him."
Some in the convention hall held signs reading "Stop Arnold's Arrogance!" while others carried bobblehead dolls depicting the Republican governor in a pink dress with an automatic rifle strapped to his shoulder. A video mocking Schwarzenegger's campaign fund-raising and fondness for cigars drew laughter from the crowd.
"Voters gave Arnold Schwarzenegger a chance when he became governor — they gave him high ratings and listened to what he had to say," said U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (search). "Now they see that what they thought they were getting is something quite different."
The crowd grew feistier Saturday during a speech by Democratic National Committee (search) chairman Howard Dean (search), who echoed a complaint by the state's teachers that Schwarzenegger had reneged on a promise to deliver $2 billion in unanticipated funds to public schools.
"We will say no to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to take $2 billion out of the education budget," Dean said. "Governor, keep your promise to the children of California and fund public schools. We don't need any more corrupt Republicans in office in this country."
Republican Party spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said the convention proved that Democrats are more interested in gloating over Schwarzenegger's recent political setbacks than they were in fixing the state's problems.
"The real arrogance lies within the Democratic leadership that refuses to acknowledge the fiscal and budget crisis in California, and the out-of-control spending spree this state has been on for over a decade," she said.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (search), a 2006 gubernatorial hopeful, was to speak Sunday.
The convention marked one of the first major public appearances for Dean since taking the helm at the DNC in February. The former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate also urged Democrats to retool their message.
"It's not that Americans don't share our values, our problem is that we don't communicate what those values are," Dean said. "At the other end of all their anxiety about economics is a profound anxiety about their kids. What they're worried about more than anything is their kids and their families."
The outbursts Saturday follow a general decline in support among Democratic lawmakers and voters for the once-universally popular Schwarzenegger, who has been hurt by his policy decisions and several gaffes.
During the budget fight last year, he branded Democrats "girlie men," infuriating some who called the remark sexist and homophobic. Two days after the Democrats took a drubbing at the polls in the November election, Schwarzenegger referred to leaders of the party as "losers."
Schwarzenegger also has called for a series of changes to everything from public employee pensions to how legislative districts are drawn. Opponents have challenged the governor's policies in court, run TV ads against him and staged street demonstrations.
Schwarzenegger had been planning to take his proposal to privatize much of the state's pension system directly to the voters in a special election this fall, but he backed off that earlier this month and said he may delay the election until June 2006.
Two other Democrats are expected to challenge for the chance to face Schwarzenegger in the 2006 election — Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly.