LOS ANGELES – Nearing the end of a bitterly fought campaign, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) on Sunday accused his rivals of trying to frighten voters by depicting him as "a dictator" while distorting the intent of his slate of ballot proposals.
"Don't buy into those scare tactics," the Republican governor said in a televised forum, referring to millions of dollars of union-funded TV ads critical of his four initiatives. "They want to scare you. They don't want you to make changes."
But Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (search) — speaking separately at the hourlong KTTV-TV forum — said Schwarzenegger wanted to use Tuesday's special election to push through laws that would hurt California workers.
Schwarzenegger wants power "without checks and balances," Nunez, a Democrat, said. "I think that's too much power."
The appearance on FOX TV's Los Angeles affiliate — the final television forum of the campaign — provided voters with ample evidence of the sharp differences that have marked the campaign.
Nunez said the governor was determined to become "a king" who would crush all dissent in Sacramento.
But Schwarzenegger said Nunez and his labor allies want to protect a statehouse where politicians and union bosses are rewarded at the public's expense.
"I don't want more power," the governor said. "I don't need more power."
Schwarzenegger is backing proposals — all trailing in the polls — that would cap state spending and give the governor greater authority to make budget cuts (search); make teachers work five years instead of two to pass probation; strip lawmakers of their power to carry out redistricting; and require public employee unions to get members' permission before dues could be used for political purposes.
Earlier in the day, Schwarzenegger addressed more than 1,000 supporters crowded at a local truck terminal in Oakdale. About 250 protesters, including members of several local unions, jeered nearby.
Opponents were shut out of the private campaign event.