- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante yesterday told voters he would raise taxes and fees by $8 billion if he becomes governor in October’s recall vote.

In an address titled “Tough Love for California,” Mr. Bustamante called for the new taxes, combined with $4.5 billion in spending cuts, to help alleviate a record $38 billion budget deficit, which voters blame largely on Gov. Gray Davis.

“The folks at the top have to pay their fair share,” Mr. Bustamante said on the lawn of his suburban Sacramento home. “The folks at the bottom have to pay something and the people being squeezed in the middle need some relief from the car tax and college fees.

“The simple truth is we all got into this mess together. Everybody has to pay something.

“We’ve tried all the easy ways and there aren’t any left,” he said.

Mr. Davis, meanwhile, took the offensive, denouncing the recall in a speech last night as “a right-wing power grab” and part of a Republican pattern of dirty tricks dating back to the scandal-plagued presidency of Bill Clinton.

“What’s happening here is part of an ongoing national effort by Republicans to steal elections they cannot win,” Mr. Davis said to the cheers of 200 supporters at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr. Davis blamed the state’s troubles on a national economy that has “tanked” and boasted of his record in education, health care, abortion and other issues.

In the coming weeks, Mr. Davis will travel the state to make his case directly to voters, said Peter Ragone, spokesman for the group Californians Against the Costly Recall.

Sean Walsh, spokesman for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, compared the UCLA speech to “watching Gray Davis deliver his obituary on live television” and ridiculed the claim of a conservative power grab.

“How clever we were to co-opt Cruz Bustamante and bring him into the vast right-wing conspiracy designed to remove him from office,” Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. Bustamante, whose relationship with Mr. Davis began to sour long before the recall, is the only prominent Democrat on the recall ballot.

His presence has threatened to divide Democrats as he adopts a strategy in which he asks Californians to vote “no” on the recall and “yes” for him to replace Mr. Davis “just in case.”

Phil Giarrizzo, a California-based Democratic campaign consultant, said it was important for Mr. Bustamante to begin defining himself as “a respected leader” so he can cut through “the emotion and star-struck quality” that has engulfed the recall process since Mr. Schwarzenegger, one of the world’s biggest stars, announced his gubernatorial candidacy.

“The circus has arrived in town,” Mr. Giarrizzo said. “Now let’s see who’s got the most substance of the three rings.”

The lieutenant governor has accused the Davis camp of trying to thwart his campaign.

“If some of the governor’s minions would stop trying to undercut my efforts, we have the possibility of having a win-win position on the ballot,” Mr. Bustamante said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Prominent state Democrats, most notably U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, have decided back Mr. Bustamante’s bid for the governor’s mansion as well.

“It’s important to have a safety net if we can’t convince people to vote against the recall,” Mrs. Boxer told a Democratic gathering outside Los Angeles.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has come under fire for deflecting specific questions about his plans for repair the state’s economy, and Mr. Bustamante struck on that theme yesterday.

“No one — not Arnold, not me, not Bill Simon, not Peter Ueberroth, not Tom McClintock — no one running for this recall election should be allowed to campaign without offering their specific and complete plan to fix it … all of it,” Mr. Bustamante said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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