- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

From combined dispatches

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge struck down a portion of California’s recall law yesterday in a ruling that will not stop the Oct. 7 election to remove Gov. Gray Davis but will change the way the balloting is done.

Meanwhile, two of California’s Democratic members of the U.S. House shattered their party’s united front by urging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to run to replace Mr. Davis, who they said was a liability.

In the legal decision, U.S. District Judge Barry Moskowitz said voters will be allowed to cast a ballot for a potential successor to Mr. Davis, even if they do not vote on whether he should be removed from office.

Under the state law, voters could choose “yes” or “no” on whether Mr. Davis should be recalled. And only voters who cast a “yes” or a “no” could then choose a potential successor from a list on the same ballot.

Judge Moskowitz shot down the portion of the law that said voters who did not answer the first question would not have their votes on the second question tallied. He sided with plaintiffs, who said the voters should be allowed to choose their preferred successor to Mr. Davis even if they don’t make a decision on the recall.

“What is at stake is the right of a voter to decide who shall succeed the governor, if recalled. Every voter, whether they voted for or against that recall, has a paramount interest in choosing the person who will govern them,” Judge Moskowitz said.

Leslie Lopez, who argued on behalf of California’s secretary of state that the law was constitutional, declined to comment. The decision of whether to appeal is up to the secretary of state.

Also yesterday, Reps. Cal Dooley and Loretta Sanchez said Democrats must have an alternative to Mr. Davis on the Oct. 7 ballot and pronounced Mrs. Feinstein the state’s most popular politician.

“It is no secret that Governor Davis is in trouble, and I seriously doubt that he can survive the recall effort,” Mr. Dooley said. He made his suggestion about Mrs. Feinstein in a statement.

“There are many who believe we should have a strong Democrat on that No. 2 question,” Mrs. Sanchez told the Associated Press in an interview.

The lawmakers’ comments came as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown convened a meeting of leading Democratic strategists to discuss how to defeat the recall. Keeping major Democrats off the ballot is a top goal because Davis allies believe that would give the governor a better chance of survival.

Davis allies played down the dissent.

“The Democratic Party is going to stay united because we all believe that no one should support an effort by the right wing of the Republican Party to have a recall election,” said Peter Ragone, spokesman for Californians Against the Costly Recall.

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Mrs. Feinstein, said the senator would have no comment.

Replacement candidates have until Aug. 9 to decide whether to run. Rep. Darrell Issa funded the recall drive and is the only declared Republican candidate.

Yesterday, multimillionaire Republican Bill Simon Jr., who ran against Mr. Davis and lost in November, filed papers with the Board of Elections in preparation for trying once again.

A senior adviser to Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that the actor, a Republican activist, is leaning against running in the Oct. 7 recall election, but no final decision has been made. He could decide by the end of the week, the adviser said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a Republican, said yesterday he will make a final decision soon, but will “seriously consider” running only if Mr. Schwarzenegger does not.

Also yesterday, recall proponents and representatives of potential Republican candidates were meeting at the Los Angeles office of Gerry Parsky, President Bush’s top California adviser, to discuss how the state party can assist with the recall.

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