The California Democratic Party endorsed state Treasurer Phil Angelides late Saturday as their candidate for governor in the hotly contested primary election to determine who will challenge Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Angelides, who has trailed in recent polls, won the endorsement with 67.2 percent of the delegate vote, party officials said. He defeated state Controller Steve Westly, who earned 28.1 percent. A 60 percent majority was required.

"I'm still the underdog in this race, but I know I'm in it. Delegates saw that," Angelides said.

The convention vote marks the first time the state party has formally backed a candidate in a contested gubernatorial primary since 1990.

How much the internal party decision will help Angelides with voters in the June 6 primary is unclear. Despite the endorsement, Angelides faces an uphill battle against Westly, a multimillionaire former eBay executive who has spent more than $20 million of his personal fortune on his gubernatorial campaign.

"I want to focus on beating Arnold, not beating up each other," Westly said in his convention speech.

Besides showing Westly leading Angelides, polls also show him faring well against Schwarzenegger in a hypothetical November matchup. Westly is seen as more centrist than Angelides, a former state Democratic Party chairman.

Schwarzenegger's popularity has sagged over the past year, in large part because he waged an unsuccessful special election battle that sought to diminish the role of California's public employee unions.