- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

With nine days left for Californians to enter the race for governor in the state’s fall recall election, more than 200 hopefuls have already seized the opportunity to run, elections officials said yesterday.

A low threshold for qualifying candidates and the shortened campaign before the Oct. 7 vote offer an opportunity for lesser-known politicos to jump in the fray.

As a result, an 18-year-old high school student, an ex-cop and a software creator are among the more-famous names bidding for the state’s top office.

As Californians continued to wait for word from actor Arnold Schwarzenegger on whether he would run, hundreds have taken matters into their own hands by picking up the papers to declare their own candidacies.

The size of the potential candidate field has elections officials worrying about even more confusion associated with the first-of-its-kind election and political scientists pondering the electoral significance.

“If there are 200 names on the ballot, it’s going to be really confusing,” said Elaine Ginnold, assistant voting registrar in Alameda County.

She said officials hope the candidate field will be winnowed down before the election, but that they are having to reprogram their elections software to accommodate the unprecedented number of candidates.

Californians will cast two votes: one a “yes-no” question on whether Mr. Davis should be thrown out of office; the other, their choice to replace him in the event he is recalled. Mr. Davis cannot appear in the second part of the ballot, and state Democratic leaders want no big-name Democrats to run, hoping to discourage voters from removing Mr. Davis.

Candidates will be listed in random order on the ballots with each state Assembly district having a different order, she said.

To appear on the recall election ballot, a California resident must be 18 or older, collect 65 signatures and pay a $3,500 filing fee. Gathering more signatures can lower the filing fee. In a normal election, a gubernatorial hopeful would need to survive the party primaries to make it to the Election Day ballot.

Though 207 persons had taken out papers to declare candidacies, none had returned them as of yesterday. The deadline to return the papers falls on Aug. 9.

With her official campaign apparel including boxer shorts and thong underwear, it would be easy to brush aside Georgy Russell’s candidacy as a joke.

But she says she is “deadly serious,” and despite being a political novice — having never run for any office of any kind — the 26-year-old Oakland, Calif., software creator hopes her “Brains, Beauty and Leadership” will land her in the governor’s mansion.

“The current list of candidates has a void,” said Miss Russell, a Democrat. “They are millionaires and career politicians. None of them can really relate to Californians.”

Miss Russell has become a media darling because of her good looks and young appeal. With support flowing in via her Web site, Miss Russell said she is in for the long haul and that she likes the populism inherent in recall elections.

“In principle, you would like to open the gates of participation to everybody, but you reach a point where you have what Madison called ‘the confusion of the multitude,’” said Jack Pitney, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California.

“There will be a small number of serious candidates and a much larger number who think they are serious but are crazy, and many more who are in it for ego gratification,” Mr. Pitney said. “At $3,500, that’s a pretty cheap ego trip.”

The presence of many fringe candidates may work to the advantage of Mr. Davis, the first governor in the state’s history to face a recall election.

The governor would like to frame the entire recall effort as a joke, and having hundreds in the running for his job would help discredit the election, Mr. Pitney said.

Bill Simon, the 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee, has taken out papers, as has Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican who bankrolled the recall effort. Mr. Schwarzenegger is reportedly leaning against a run, and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has said he will seriously consider a campaign, but only if the Austrian-born actor stays out.

Several congressional Democrats have called for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to add her name to the list of candidates in case the governor is recalled. Mrs. Feinstein has said she is not interested in running.

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