The seamy nature of the recall race is nothing new to California politics, particularly past races with Gov. Gray Davis.
As new evidence emerges that Mr. Davis’ campaign may have helped orchestrate the deluge of groping accusations against Republican opponent Arnold Schwarzenegger in the final days of the election, some voters say their governor has reverted to the tactics he became known for in past campaigns.
“Republicans are saying that the Davis people are in cahoots with the media and out to destroy their man,” said John J. Pitney, a government professor at Claremont College in California. “They’re reacting the same way Democrats reacted to the allegations against Bill Clinton.”
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that six women accused Mr. Schwarzenegger of forcibly fondling them between 1975 and 2000.
After acknowledging and apologizing for some wrongdoing, Mr. Schwarzenegger said: “This morning they have begun with the tearing-down. … I know the people of California will see through this trash politics.”
Meanwhile, the Davis campaign insisted it had no involvement in publicizing the accusations, and the Times said it did not locate the women with help from any of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s opponents.
But the LA Weekly reports in its current issue that the claims of no involvement are “becoming increasingly dubious.”
“One of the women in the story says she came forward at the urging of Jodie Evans, described by the Times as a peace activist,” wrote Bill Bradley, who went on to detail Ms. Evans’ close connections to Mr. Davis.
“As most Californians know by now, Davis is the champion of negative campaigning and has nearly perfected the strategy of last-minute allegations breaking in the final days of the campaign,” Mr. Bradley wrote. “It should not be surprising to Times-Mirror Square that his fingerprints appear on at least the latest story.”
Mr. Pitney said he’s not sure whether Mr. Davis and his supporters helped orchestrate the Times story, but “they did do everything they could to hype it.”
Some of Mr. Davis’ supporters have demanded a criminal investigation into the claims against Mr. Schwarzenegger.
“Once the mud presented itself, they threw it hard,” Mr. Pitney said. “Gray Davis went into Gray Davis mode.”
Going back more than 10 years, Mr. Davis has earned the nickname “Gray Devious” for his hardball tactics.
In the 1992 Democratic primary for Senate, he ran an ad comparing rival Dianne Feinstein to tax cheat Leona Helmsley for incorrectly filling out financial forms disclosing political contributions.
During last year’s governor’s race, Mr. Davis also surprised many by inserting himself into the Republican primary with ads against former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan, the best-known Republican in the field. The Davis ads were credited with helping defeat Mr. Riordan, a popular centrist, and giving Mr. Davis a general-election matchup against Republican businessman Bill Simon, a conservative with little name recognition and no political experience.
“It struck a lot of people as dirty pool when he invaded the Republican primary like that,” Mr. Pitney said.
In the general-election campaign, Mr. Davis then pilloried Mr. Simon for a lawsuit verdict against a company Mr. Simon owned. But the Davis ad failed to mention that the jury’s verdict in that case was thrown out by a judge.
This story is based in part on wire reports.