- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

LOS ANGELES — Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday said he would run in California’s recall election, lending Republicans his marquee value in their campaign to oust Gov. Gray Davis.

The Austrian-born star’s announcement came as a surprise; advisers had said in recent days that Mr. Schwarzenegger was leaning against running in the Oct. 7 election because of opposition from his wife, journalist Maria Shriver.

Mr. Schwarzenegger made his announcement during a taping of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” which he called the toughest decision he’s made since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978.

“The politicians are fiddling, fumbling and failing,” he said. “The man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He is failing them terribly, and this is why he needs to be recalled and this is why I am going to run for governor.”

Earlier in the day, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein had ruled out a run, labeling the election “more and more like a carnival every day.” And political commentator Arianna Huffington announced that she would run as an independent.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s decision appears to end the possibility of a candidacy by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who has said he would run only if the actor did not. The men, both socially liberal Republicans, are friends.

Riordan spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said last night that her boss had no immediate comment.

In a news conference last night after the Leno taping, Mr. Schwarzenegger boasted of his immigrant background and said his fame and wealth made him incorruptible.

“The biggest problem that we have is that California is being run now by special interests,” he said. “As you know, I don’t need to take any money from anybody. I have plenty of money myself. I will make the decisions for the people.”

He then riffed off one of his signature lines: “Say ‘hasta la vista’ to Gray Davis.”

Meanwhile yesterday, Democrats lost their most-popular potential candidate as Mrs. Feinstein called the recall election a “terrible mistake” and ruled out becoming a candidate, frustrating some fellow Democrats who saw her as the party’s best chance to keep the office.

The senator tops opinion polls as California’s most-popular politician, and many analysts believed that Mr. Davis’ chances of survival would diminish if she ran.

“After thinking a great deal about this recall, its implications for the future, and its misguided nature, I have decided that I will not place my name on the ballot,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement.

“I deeply believe the recall is a terrible mistake and will bring to the depth and breadth of California instability and uncertainty, which will be detrimental to our economic recovery and decision-making,” she said.

During last night’s appearance, Mr. Schwarzenegger told Mr. Leno that he’s not afraid of Mr. Davis’ allies attacking him as “a womanizer” or “a terrible person.”

“I know that they’re going to throw everything at me,” he said.

Mr. Davis issued a statement calling the action-film star merely the latest in a list of dozens of people of every possible stripe who have declared their intent to run, noting that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is among them.

Several Democrats had publicly urged Mrs. Feinstein to run, saying the party needed a fallback position in case Mr. Davis — whose approval ratings have plunged following the state’s power crisis and economic troubles — lost his job.

But Mr. Davis applauded Mrs. Feinstein’s withdrawal, told San Francisco radio station KGO-AM that “to the extent that Democrats get in the race, it makes it look like a normal election, and legitimates what is really an effort by the right wing to steal back an election they couldn’t win last November.”

Some party members still thought otherwise. “I want to back the strongest candidate and it’s important that we coalesce around one,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, who had supported a Feinstein candidacy.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who also supported a Feinstein candidacy, had said she might run if Mrs. Feinstein did not. “I have a feeling something will be decided tomorrow probably, one way or the other,” Sanchez spokeswoman Carrie Brooks said yesterday.

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