- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

California voters waited over the weekend for Arnold Schwarzenegger to announce whether he would seek to replace Gov. Gray Davis in the state’s upcoming recall election.

Meanwhile, two prominent Republicans seemed on the verge of declaring their candidacies, complicating the recall effort for state Republican leaders.

California Rep. Darrell Issa remains the only Republican candidate officially in the race, but he is expected to soon be joined by state Sen. Tom McClintock and former gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, both of who all but declared their candidacies during a Sacramento rally Saturday.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, whose candidacy was once thought to be a forgone conclusion, reportedly spent the weekend discussing a campaign with his wife, Maria Shriver, who is said to fear the media attention that would come with it.

Among the three Republicans intent on seeking the governorship, each has staked out a claim on the post. Mr. Issa funded the recall effort with more than $1 million of his own money.

Mr. Simon narrowly lost to Mr. Davis less than a year ago in the 2002 gubernatorial election and has previously spent two years running for governor.

Mr. McClintock, the 2002 Republican candidate for state controller, attracted more votes in the election than Mr. Simon, and was the closest to winning of any Republican in an election where the Republicans were shut out of statewide offices.

Democrats act giddy at the thought of the Republicans defeating the recall themselves, by demonizing each other and making the potential Davis replacements even more unpopular than the embattled governor. The Oct. 7 ballot will ask voters if Mr. Davis should be replaced and who should replace him if he is recalled.

“They are only in agreement on the first question, that Davis should be recalled,” said Bob Mulholland, a strategist for the California Democratic Party. “They are standing around in a circle with their guns drawn.”

If all three Republicans continue fighting for the job in October, Democrats say, it could jeopardize the chances of a Republican replacing Mr. Davis. They could split the Republican vote and allow a Democratic or third party candidate the plurality needed to win election.

The Green Party’s 2002 gubernatorial candidate, Peter Camejo, has announced his intention to run. The first Democrat also entered the race over the weekend, but Audie Bock, a political wild card, lacks party backing and was dismissed by Mr. Mulholland as a “political prostitute.”

The presence of multiple Republicans poses a challenge to the chairman of the California Republican Party, Duf Sundheim, who cannot rely on a party primary or public direction from the White House to clear the Republican field.

“We have told the candidates that there may come a time when they need to subordinate their personal political goals,” Mr. Sundheim said, declining to comment on how it would be decided who would drop out.

Wanting to leave the question of who replaces Mr. Davis up to the voters, Mr. Sundheim said he is encouraging all candidates to develop volunteer and funding bases. No endorsements of candidates are expected from either the California Republican Party or its executive board, he said.

Sal Russo, Mr. Simon’s campaign strategist in 2002, said the presence of multiple Republicans in the race precludes Mr. Davis from demonizing any one candidate and that may be the key to the recall’s success. He acknowledged that the field would need to be thinned if only one serious Democratic candidate enters the race.

Mr. McClintock and Mr. Simon have opened exploratory committees. Former California Rep. Michael Huffington, a Republican, is said to be considering a bid, as is his ex-wife, columnist Arianna Huffington.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who lost his gubernatorial bid to Mr. Simon in the 2002 Republican primary, has said he will consider a run if Schwarzenegger does not. Former New York representative and vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp stamped out speculation that he would run, telling the Associated Press on Saturday that he had retired from politics.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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