LOS ANGELES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon (search) will run the first radio ads directly attacking GOP front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) by focusing on the issue his economic adviser raised by suggesting Californians might need to pay higher property taxes.
The radio spots have been cut and may begin airing on California talk radio stations as early as Sunday night, Simon spokesman K.B. Forbes told Fox News early Sunday.
Forbes would not say how much the campaign spent on the radio ads or which stations would carry them, but did say the anti-Schwarzenegger spots would run "on major talk radio stations up and down the state."
"The ad will say Californians are already facing a tripling of the car tax and now Arnold Schwarzenegger's top economic adviser is suggesting a tripling of the property tax," Forbes said. "We're looking for a strong face-to-face debate on this issue."
The Simon ads seek to capitalize on the flap generated Friday when the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Schwarzenegger's chief economic adviser, billionaire investment wizard Warren Buffett, in which he said California's property taxes were too low and that the law mandating the property tax levels — Proposition 13 (search) — was nonsensical.
Proposition 13 was passed in 1978 and cut property taxes by 30 percent and placed a 2 percent ceiling on allowable property tax increases in future years. California Republicans considered it the most important initiative in state history and conservatives nationwide saw it as the beginning of the tax revolt that spread across the country and helped fuel Ronald Reagan's bid for the presidency in 1980.
One Schwarzenegger supporter with ties to the national party and the Bush White House called the property tax flap a huge problem for the campaign. The source also told Fox News many of the actor's most ardent supporters were worried the campaign was underestimating the issue's explosive nature.
"No one in California messes with Proposition 13 and especially not a Republican," the source said. "They have to come out much harder than they have and declare that Arnold will stand by Proposition 13 and will never even listen to anyone who says otherwise."
Schwarzenegger's campaign has tried to distance itself from Buffett's remarks. Campaign spokesman Rob Stutzman told Fox News that the candidate disagrees with Buffett's remarks on the issue and that the international film star considers Howard Jarvis, the author of Proposition 13, the "original tax cut terminator." Buffett will remain the campaign's top economic adviser, however.
Stutzman said if elected governor, Schwarzenegger would be a "fierce protector" of Proposition 13.
Buffett did not say California's property taxes must be raised to solve the state's budget crisis but made it clear to the interviewer the inference could be fairly drawn.
When informed of the Simon attack ad, the Schwarzenegger campaign described the actor as "the staunchest defender of Proposition 13 of any candidate in the field."
"That's why Arnold was invited to be the keynote speaker at Howard Jarvis's Silver Anniversary Gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Proposition 13," Stutzman told Fox News.