- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

LOS ANGELES — Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday called on Republicans to unite behind him for governor as Democrats staged their own dramatic show of party unity.

Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appeared together for the first time since Mr. Bustamante broke his pledge and entered the race to succeed Mr. Davis if he is recalled. The two shook hands on stage while Democratic delegates cheered.

On the other side of town, Mr. Schwarzenegger warned his party’s faithful that continuing to split their votes between him and state Sen. Tom McClintock could cost them the governor’s office in the Oct. 7 recall election.

“In 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a speech called ‘A Time for Choosing.’ That is what we face here today,” the action star told about 500 Republican delegates at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. “We as Republicans have a choice to make: Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided? Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles or let the liberals win because we are split? Are we going to fight Mr. Davis and Mr. Bustamante or are we going to fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory.”

The speech did not mention Mr. McClintock, who was to speak to delegates last evening.

At the Los Angeles Convention Center, 85 percent of more than 600 Democratic delegates voted to endorse Mr. Bustamante. The party had voted in March to oppose Mr. Davis’ recall, but the issue of who should replace the governor if he is ousted is a separate question on the ballot.

Mr. Davis spoke before the vote, with Mr. Bustamante scheduled afterward, and the men had not been expected to meet. The two have had a bitter relationship for years, and the rift widened when Mr. Bustamante entered the recall race after earlier saying he would not.

The stunned audience of about 1,000 stood and erupted in applause after Mr. Bustamante took the stage in the middle of the governor’s speech.

“People wanted to see us stand together, so here we are,” Mr. Davis said.

“I am not in competition with Mr. Gray Davis. I’m running against Arnold and Tom,” Mr. Bustamante said in his speech to delegates. “I believe that my name would be a positive option for Democrats on the second part of the ballot, and I thank you for embracing that option.”

Several prominent Democrats already had endorsed Mr. Bustamante’s presence on the second part of the ballot as a logical “safety net” if Mr. Davis loses. In recent campaign appearances, Mr. Bustamante has focused less on opposing the recall and more on his own candidacy, angering some labor leaders and other core Democratic supporters.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, used California Republicans’ biannual convention to reach out to conservative voters whose views are closer to Mr. McClintock’s.

According to one recent poll, Mr. Schwarzenegger would be in a dead heat with Mr. Bustamante if Mr. McClintock dropped out. But Mr. McClintock is favored by the party’s conservative base, which worries about Mr. Schwarzenegger’s more moderate social views, including support for abortion rights and domestic partnerships.

Some Republicans who like Mr. McClintock said they have to be realistic in choosing whom to support.

Delegate Dottie Van Eckhardt, from Yuba City, called Mr. McClintock “a lovely man” but said she was supporting Mr. Schwarzenegger.

“I think McClintock probably is more experienced, but Arnold can win,” she said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger entered the convention hall to an extended standing ovation, and his speech was interrupted frequently by applause. Midway through his remarks, however, a handful of protesters yards away from Mr. Schwarzenegger unfolded a banner reading, “Sexual misconduct is not a family value” before being hustled away by security officials.

The actor has been dogged by old magazine interviews in which he boasted about his sexual exploits and referred to women as sexual objects.

Mr. Davis’ speech yesterday signaled a strategy shift in which the governor would campaign more aggressively against Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. McClintock.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has stressed the state’s budget deficit — once more than $38 billion but now reduced to an estimated $8 billion — and in a television commercial said the state is spending $29 million a day more than it is collecting.

Earlier this week, however, state Finance Director Steve Peace said that in July and August the state took in more revenue than it spent, although that is partly due to heavy borrowing.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger is paying money saying California is losing $29 million a day. That’s simply not true,” said Ann Lewis, a strategist with the Democratic National Committee working in California against the recall. “He thinks people don’t care about facts. We’re here to tell them that they do.”

Today, Mr. Davis will campaign with former President Clinton. Later in the week, several other prominent Democrats will head to California to support the embattled governor.

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