- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

An Oct. 7 special election will let California voters decide whether to oust Gov. Gray Davis from office, the lieutenant governor said yesterday.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante’s announcement came one day after California’s secretary of state certified that the Republican-led campaign to recall Mr. Davis, a Democrat, had collected more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Mr. Bustamante, also a Democrat, said the recall election will have two components: Voters will decide whether to depose Mr. Davis from office, then will choose a replacement from a list of candidates. Those voting against the recall still will be able to cast a vote in the second part of the ballot.

If the initiative passes, Mr. Davis will be the second governor in the country ever to be recalled.

The news came amid speculation that the list of Republican candidates to replace Mr. Davis would include actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, state Sen. Tom McClintock, businessman Bill Simon, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and columnist Arianna Huffington.

Many Republicans privately say they most fear a run by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but neither she nor any other Democrat has officially declared candidacy.

There is also speculation that Democratic former state Controller Kathleen Connell will be on the ballot.

Mr. Davis’ popularity plummeted after his 2002 re-election victory over Mr. Simon. The governor has been plagued by a slumping economy and a record $38 billion budget deficit.

Republican officials said the date of the recall election appears to give an advantage to Mr. Davis’ opponents, especially to any Republican candidates.

Tim Morgan, a California member of the Republican National Committee, said Mr. Davis’ chances of hanging on to his job or of a Democrat being elected to succeed him would be better served during the next statewide primary in March, when Democratic voters would be expected to go to the polls in higher numbers.

Former California Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel welcomed the news of a fall recall election. “I like Oct. 7,” said Mr. Steel, who was one of the first Republicans to get behind the recall drive. “Only those who are seriously fed up with Davis will come out to vote. It’s ideal.”

Other Republicans, including some in the White House and on the Bush-Cheney re-election team, have frowned on the recall petition drive from the beginning. They believe that President Bush would have a better chance of carrying California in the 2004 election with an unpopular Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

Pro-recall Republicans argue that unseating Mr. Davis and electing a Republican to replace him would give Mr. Bush a better chance in 2004 to win California — the nation’s biggest Electoral College prize. The Democratic candidate has carried California during the last three presidential elections.

Republican state officials speculate that a maximum of four established Republican politicians will enter the contest.

Mr. McClintock has formed an exploratory committee. He ran unsuccessfully for state controller last year, when Republicans were defeated for all of the state’s top elected offices.

Mr. Issa, who made his fortune in the car-alarm business, spent $1.71 million of his own money to hire people to collect signatures for the recall petition. He is viewed as a conservative and is the only Republican formally to announce his candidacy to replace Mr. Davis.

Mr. Simon said Wednesday that he will announce his decision about running at a recall rally tomorrow.

Mr. Riordan has said he won’t run if Mr. Schwarzenegger gets into the race. Mr. Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, is on a movie promotion tour and continues to hint at a run for office.

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