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Davis To Face Recall Election

California Secretary Certifies Signatures Of 1.3 Million Voters

By William Booth and Rene Sanchez

Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, July 24, 2003; Page A01

LOS ANGELES, July 23 -- California Gov. Gray Davis (D) will face a special recall election this fall, after the state's top elections officer certified tonight that the signatures of more than 1.3 million voters who signed petitions were valid. This marks only the second time in U.S. history that citizens have won the chance to oust a sitting governor.

The bland Davis, already one of the most unpopular leaders in the nation, previously disparaged the recall activists as "losers." Today, he renewed his vow to fight to the very end against what he called "a hostile takeover by the right."

The announcement tonight by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley that the recall election will be held in 60 to 80 days capped a remarkable political saga -- and signals a major embarrassment for the Democrats and Davis, who was once considered a likely contender for the White House.

Just a few months ago, most political handicappers thought the recall effort had little chance of getting on the ballot, but the movement to remove Davis tapped into deep unhappiness among voters who have watched in shock and awe as the state stumbled through a self-made energy crisis and is now essentially broke and saddled with an unprecedented $38 billion budget shortfall.

Into this breach come Republicans such as film actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is seriously considering offering himself as a Davis successor.

California, already on the cutting edge for its embrace of voter initiatives, is making history again. Since the recall option was made law in 1911, there have been 31 failed attempts to get one on the ballot in California.

The attempt to haul Davis before voters less than a year after he was narrowly elected to a second term also appeared doomed until Rep. Darrell Issa ®, a car-alarm impresario from suburban San Diego, put up $1.7 million of his own money to employ professional signature-gatherers to get ink on petitions. Shelley confirmed tonight that Issa's troops had gathered in excess of 1.3 million valid signatures; they needed 897,158 to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Issa, who also wants to replace Davis, tonight called the recall "a landmark for California" and blamed Davis for the state's budget shortfall.

Other critics have assailed Davis for what they call gross mismanagement of the state's energy and fiscal affairs.

Now that Shelley has certified that there are enough valid signatures to mount a recall, the baton is passed to Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D). On Thursday, he is expected to set a date for the election, which must be held within 60 to 80 days.

But confusion reigned today after Bustamante said he will not issue a call for a two-part ballot that would ask first whether Davis should be recalled and second who should replace him if he is ousted.

Instead, Bustamante said he will leave the question of how to choose a possible Davis successor to an independent panel and the California Supreme Court's reading of the state constitution.

If the question goes before the high court, it could rule that if Davis is removed by voters, his successor would automatically be Bustamante. That would inevitably be challenged by GOP hopefuls who want to be on the ballot.

Or the court could order the fall ballot to include a list of candidates for Davis's job if he is recalled. That is the ballot that everyone has been expecting to see.

Bustamante said he will leave the question to the Commission on the Governorship. This obscure commission has never been empaneled, and its chairman, state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D), said, "Up until three days ago, I didn't know there was such a thing."

Burton said today that he was seeking legal advice on the commission's role but that it was his initial impression that the panel is consulted only when there is "a vacancy" in office -- if a governor becomes incapacitated, for example.

The Bustamante move, which his spokesman said was supported by lawyers in the California secretary of state's office, adds greater uncertainty to a process that is fraught with challenges.

County election officials have warned that holding a special election in so short a time (usually they have about 131 days to print and mail ballots and train poll workers) is a recipe for an electoral debacle like the one that engulfed Florida after the 2000 presidential election. California is also in the middle of modernizing its voting systems.

The confusion over the ballot also places greater pressure on possible candidates to replace Davis. The field is wildly uncertain. All it takes is 65 signatures and $3,500 to get on the ballot. But because the election appears to be on such a fast track, anyone with ambitions of replacing Davis now may have only a few days to decide whether to run.

Only Issa and a Green Party candidate, Peter Canejo, have committed to running. But the Republican and Democratic parties here are buzzing with behind-the-scenes intrigue about other prospective recall campaigns.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has never sought public office, has flirted with the idea of running against Davis for months. He also has organized a campaign team that would consist mostly of advisers to former two-term California governor Pete Wilson ®, whom Davis replaced in 1999.

But several Republican strategists with ties to Schwarzenegger said today that his wife, journalist Maria Shriver, is opposed to his running -- and that her opposition could keep him out of the race.

"Arnold is ready to go," said a prominent Republican official. "But she doesn't really want him to do this."

If Schwarzenegger doesn't run, his friend Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles, might. Riordan is a moderate Republican with a record of attracting Democratic voters. He ran for governor last year, but his campaign did not entice conservative Republicans and fizzled in the GOP primary. Polls suggested that he could have beaten Davis in the general election. The candidate that Davis defeated in November, Republican businessman Bill Simon, also may run in the recall election.

Democrats, meanwhile, have rallied behind Davis. Every prominent elected official in the party here has vowed not to run in the recall. But some Democratic officials are so worried that Davis could be ousted -- because less than 25 percent of voters say he is doing a good job -- there is continuing chatter about whether the party should embrace a "caretaker" candidate who is in better standing with the public and who could complete the governor's term but not run for reelection in 2006.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and former congressman Leon Panetta, who was President Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff, have been approached with such overtures but have rebuffed them.

The recall ballot also may be packed with lesser names because the requirements for qualifying are much easier than in regular elections. If voters decide to recall Davis, the winner of the election would need only a plurality of votes -- not a majority -- and would take office immediately.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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Originally posted by Kilmer17

This will do nothing but hurt the GOP.

actually this will hurt both the GOB and the Dems, this is a no win situation for both parties. This would be a good time for one of the other small parties to make some noise.

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Originally posted by jbooma

actually this will hurt both the GOB and the Dems, this is a no win situation for both parties. This would be a good time for one of the other small parties to make some noise.

agreed. Some Indy comes out and wins it....that would be sweet.

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Politics in 2003.

The attempt to haul Davis before voters less than a year after he was narrowly elected to a second term also appeared doomed until Rep. Darrell Issa ®, a car-alarm impresario from suburban San Diego, put up $1.7 million of his own money to employ professional signature-gatherers to get ink on petitions.

Didn't we (Californians) just vote for Governor last November?

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Here is something else to think about...something that probably wasnt thought about by those at the state level...

Recall to hurt county coffers

Tight budgets will be further stretched, and some workers or services may pay the price.

By Dorothy Korber -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, July 24, 2003

The looming vote on the recall of Gov. Gray Davis is taxing the patience of the capital region's county registrars, who find themselves planning for an election on very short notice.

With money tight, they also worry about footing the bill for this unprecedented statewide election.

"It puts us in a very precarious position," said Ernest Hawkins, registrar of voters for Sacramento County. Hawkins reckons the recall vote will cost the cash-strapped county $1.6 million, most of it for printing and mailing election material to 610,000 registered voters.

"I don't know where the money will come from," Hawkins said. "We're in a period of severe budget problems. We're already scraping the bottom of the barrel."

In Yolo, County Clerk Freddie Oakley figures the cost of a stand-alone recall election will be $250,000.

"Something else will have to give if we take a quarter of a million dollars from the county general fund," Oakley said. "That's the equivalent of five full-time social workers or five health outreach workers. That's a lot of immunizations that won't be given."

For Placer County, the recall's cost will run between $550,000 and $750,000, according to Assistant Registrar Ryan Ronco.

"This election is uncharted ground," Ronco said. "We can't just schedule three polling places and hope for a low turnout. We have to prepare for 100 percent turnout."

He noted that nearly 25 percent of Placer's 156,000 registered voters signed the recall petition.

El Dorado County's cost estimate for the election ranges from $90,000 to $100,000, said Registrar Michele MacIntyre. As in area counties, she's planning to consolidate voting precincts to reduce the number of poll workers needed.

"We're also going to encourage people to consider becoming permanent absentee voters," MacIntyre said.

"We have a number of elections coming up in El Dorado County -- a special supervisorial election next week, a partial county election in November, the presidential primary in March. People will have many opportunities to express their opinion; it might be easier for them just to vote absentee and drop their ballots in the mail."

The short time frame for this election frustrates the registrars, who prefer to sit down months before an election to chart, day-by-day, when to order the ballots, mail out the absentees, hire the poll workers and deliver the booths.

"We always work on a six-month calendar before an election," Yolo's Oakley said.

But traditional calendars are useless in this case.

With Secretary of State Kevin Shelley having certified that recall backers submitted enough valid signatures, Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante must choose a date 60 to 80 days hence for an election. The local registrars think an October vote is likely.

At this point, even the contents of the ballot remain unclear.

Many assume it will contain a list of candidates who hope to replace Davis if the recall passes. But Bustamante and others believe the California Constitution provides that the state Supreme Court would fill the vacancy, not the voters.

"This situation is definitely a challenge," said Hawkins, Sacramento County's registrar for 23 years. "The conduct of elections looks simple on the face of it, but it's like planning a wedding. There are a million details, so you start planning months and months in advance.

"In this case, we have days instead of months. Every day -- almost every hour -- that a decision is delayed on the election date or the wording of the ballot will cost us money and will increase the potential for error."

Despite the uncertainty, Hawkins sounds calm. He says there's a good reason for that.

"I'm retiring August 1," he said. "I'm waking up with a big smile on my face these days."


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hmmmm....well US Senate filibusters seem to be slowing the wheels of progress elsewhere with little hint of frustration by the practitioners. this doesn't bother me one iota. nasty ploitics are getting nastier by the day! it's a game both sides can play.....

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i think this is bad for the GOP. thinking politically (and not for the benefit of the state), they should let the dems try and fix this mess with tax hikes, budget cuts, etc. then, when the citizens are good and pissed, win elections left and right. instead, the GOP is going to try and fix the mess, possibly incur the wrath of the masses, and hand elections to the dems. not smart, imo.

again, cali was stupid enough to vote for davis. they should reap the "benefits."

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