For Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, standing in a room filled with Democrats singing his praises last week was a sign his latest political transformation is working. This is the same governor who six months ago appeared to be on the political ropes after voters resoundingly rejected four ballot propositions he had pushed in a special election. Republicans were close to abandoning him – particularly after he brought in liberal Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff – with many conservatives looking for someone to run against Schwarzenegger this year as his popularity numbers dropped below 40 percent. Shrugging off his old handlers as easily as he has stepped into new movie roles, Schwarzenegger went back to what got him elected in the first place, looking to the political center that earned him such high marks in his first months. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe results have been a very un-Republican-like package of bond measures totaling $37.3 billion. Followed by an agreement to use $5 billion in extra state revenue to repay money borrowed from schools and appeasing one of his major opponents – the California Teachers Association. The governor also has been able to watch as his two leading Democratic challengers, Controller Steve Westly and Treasurer Phil Angelides, have beat each other up and been forced to spend millions to try to capture voter attention for next month’s primary election. While the more conservative Republicans and the most liberal of Democrats still don’t like what they see, all the buzz is again about Schwarzenegger and his expected next term. Even with all that political savvy, one has to question the message the governor and his staff sent with their location for the news conference trying to persuade voters to put themselves in more debt. It was held at the offices of a private charter carrier called “Million Aire.” City Councilman Alex Padilla got a taste of hardball politics last week when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa backed Assemblywoman Cindy Monta ez, D-San Fernando, in their closely-watched race for the state Senate. Villaraigosa’s endorsement of Monta ez was long expected. She is backed by Villaraigosa ally Speaker Fabian Nu ez, D-Los Angeles, and the mayor’s campaign consultant, Parke Skelton, is running her campaign. There also is some personal history between Villaraigosa and Padilla. In Villaraigosa’s first run for mayor in 2001, Padilla endorsed former Mayor James Hahn. In last year’s race, Padilla endorsed Villaraigosa, but it came so late in the campaign that it had no real impact. Despite his recent pledges to include neighborhood councils in the selection of a new Department of Neighborhood Empowerment general manager to replace Greg Nelson, the mayor still finds himself the subject of suspicion. The weekly CityWatch newsletter to neighborhood councils said the mayor has yet to develop a selection process and appears in no hurry to do so. The mayor has said he will involve the councils in selecting the new general manager in the same way they were involved in selecting Planning Director S. Gail Goldberg. But the councils are wary. “Neighborhood Councils are becoming increasingly convinced the mayor’s lieutenants are running the department directly and are engineering a crackdown on NCs,” it said. “Many of them believe that what they feared most will come to pass: The DONE will become a mouthpiece for the mayor’s agenda and a police department – as opposed to a support unit – for Neighborhood Councils.” Could it be election season, with some politicians looking for a wedge issue? Two Southland Republicans have signed onto legislation demanding the national anthem be sung only in English. Reps. David Dreier, R-Glendora, and Gary Miller, R-Brea, are among 20 lawmakers pushing a resolution affirming that “statements of national unity” including the anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in English only. “Americans hail from many backgrounds but we are united by our freedoms, our democratic government and our language,” Dreier said. “It goes without saying that `The Star Spangled Banner’ should be sung in English.” Daily News staff writer Lisa Friedman contributed. Rick Orlov is a Daily News staff writer. Write to him at P.O. Box 4200, Woodland Hills, CA 91365-4200 or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!