Just days after voters roundly rejected a slate of his ballot initiatives, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has backed out of a fight with California's nurses, who hounded him throughout his unsuccessful campaign.
Late Thursday, the Republican governor dropped his year-long legal effort to roll back legislation requiring hospitals to maintain a ratio of one nurse to every five patients. California's attorney general withdrew Schwarzenegger's appeal of a judge's ruling against him in the staffing fight.
Schwarzenegger's move marked the first of what analysts predict will be a series of attempts to win over Democratic and independent voters, who have grown tired of the famously combative movie action hero-turned-politician.
At a Friday news conference, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, called the dropping of appeals against the lawsuit "a strategic retreat."
"He has to run for reelection -- he knows that other people, who will be opposed to him, support the nurses," she said. "He doesn't have a choice."
A Schwarzenegger spokesman referred requests for comment to the state Health and Human Services Agency. Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, an agency spokeswoman, told Reuters the move was not political. She said the emergency regulation's expiration had prompted the appeal's withdrawal, not Tuesday's election results.
The nurses association filed the lawsuit last December, shortly after Schwarzenegger suspended parts of a law requiring hospitals to maintain the nurse-patient ratio. Soon after, the governor told a women's conference the nurses did not like him "because I am always kicking their butts." In the months leading up to Tuesday's special election, nurses emerged as the most relentless of the governor's critics, following him around the state and the country.