Tags: Davis | Recall | Effort | Eleventh | Hour

Davis Recall Effort In Eleventh Hour

Sunday, 22 June 2003 12:00 AM

Despite the recall’s startling momentum and international media attention, there remains not one word about the potential history-making ouster of the Democrat anywhere on his official website.

Instead, Davis has elected to continue shades of business-as-usual, with his scrambling administration most recently tripling the state vehicle license fee, a measure that will cost the average driver $158 more a year and provide about $4 billion to help stem the state’s staggering $38 billion budget shortfall.

However, business is not so usual for others in the agitated Davis camp. Fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has announced that he would not run to replace his boss in a recall election, saying in an official announcement that the proposed recall was simply an attempt by Republican “sore losers” to overturn the results of the election they lost last year. In a further showing of Democratic unity, Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer, Treasurer Phil Angelides and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi have also pledged to stay off any recall ballot.

Meanwhile, according to syndicated columnist and news analyst Robert Novak, key California Democrats are advising Davis to resign and put out himself out of everyone’s misery. A resignation anytime before the recall vote itself would put an instant period to the struggling state’s dilemma, elevating Bustamante to the governorship and saving the governor's mansion from a premature GOP raid.

However, says Novak, these same key players express doubt that Gray will succumb to the pressure to give up his office.

At this point, the popular Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein remains on record against Davis’s recall. However, watchers say that if Davis goes down the tubes, the Bay area moderate is the likeliest recruit to keep the GOP from taking over the governor’s mansion.

Despite her informal frontrunner status, however, over the weekend Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Feinstein, quoted her as saying, "I intend to remain a United States senator. I do not intend to run for governor."

The deadline for turning in the signatures is Sept. 2, but the race is on to get them in sooner.

If the required signatures are certified in July or August, this would mean that the recall would be the subject of a special election. Some experts have predicted that a special election increases the chances of Davis’s recall since special-election voters are characteristically older and more conservative.

If, however, the signature certification occurs after Sept. 2, any recall measure may be consolidated with the March presidential primary -- a ballot that could include a hodgepodge of Democratic presidential candidates and hot ballot initiatives expected to turn out Democratic voters.

In any event, a complete slate of gubernatorial candidates to challenge Davis might not be known until after recall petitions are certified 60 days after filing and Bustamante sets a date for the election. At that time, a veritable flood of candidates for governor could get on the ballot by simply paying a filing fee of $3,500 – two percent of the governor’s $175,000 annual salary. The resulting ballot could feature numerous Democrats and Republicans, as well as candidates from smaller parties.

Possible Republican opponents for Davis include:

Talk of recalling Davis began within weeks after he defeated Republican Bill Simon in November. Credit for the birth of the recall drive goes to Ted Costa, an anti-tax activist who helped propel 1978’s Proposition 13, the historic measure that cut California property taxes and fueled tax-cut agitation nationwide. Using his Sacramento-based tax watchdog group People’s Advocate, Costa used the Internet and talk radio to build momentum for the campaign.

Costa’s was the lead signature on the official Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition, which was served on February 5, 2003 to Gray Davis.

The petition, allowed under the California election code, cited: “Gross mismanagement of California finances by overspending taxpayers’ money, threatening public safety by cutting funds to local governments, failing to account for the exorbitant cost of the energy fiasco, and failing in general to deal with the state’s major problems until they get to the crisis stage. California should not have to be known as the state with poor schools, traffic jams, outrageous utility bills, and huge debts....all caused by gross mismanagement.”

Davis’s official answer, which is incorporated at the foot of the official petition, reads: “IF YOU SIGN THIS PETITION, IT MAY LEAD TO A SPECIAL ELECTION THIS SUMMER COSTING US TAXPAYERS AN ADDITIONAL $20-40 MILLION. Last November, almost 8,000,000 Californians went to the polls. They voted to elect Governor Davis to another term. Just days after the Governor’s inauguration in January, however, a handful of rightwing politicians are attempting to overturn the voters’ decision. They couldn’t beat him fair and square, so now they’re trying another trick to remove him from office… As Governor, Davis has vetoed almost $9 BILLION in spending. California, along with 37 other states, is facing a budget deficit due to the bad national economy. The Bush Administration has announced the federal deficit this year will be the biggest in history, $304 BILLION…”

If all this sounds far out and unique on the American political landscape, that’s because it is. In all of American history, only North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier was ousted by recall – and that was back in 1921.

While Davis is on a second and final term, the hapless Frazier was on his third when farm exports dropped, taking the economy with it. The N. Dakota budget proved to be anything but resilient, and the governor’s office tried to mask the holes in the state’s budget.

In a modern reprise of the unfortunate Frazier saga, the pro-Davis recall “Rescue California” website alleges among other things: “Because California voters were deceived by Davis last November, they did not have a chance to learn how bad things were. Davis understated the deficit, understated state spending, and misled the public about the state of our economy. Now the facts are in, and Davis deserves to be recalled for misleading the public.”

Adding insult to injury, Davis-bashers point out that after the budget was signed in September -- ostensibly closing a $23 billion gap –- Davis maintained that future deficits would not be so severe. Of course the deficit soared to an unprecedented $38 million.

Meanwhile, in what might be construed as the eleventh hour, an anti-recall group, “Taxpayers Against the Recall,” is promoting its own petition-gathering drive, often showing up outside shopping centers where Republicans are collecting signatures.

However, such informal petitions have no legal clout and offer no substantial impediment to the apparent juggernaut of the recall, which seems to be demanding its place in history.

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Despite the recall's startling momentum and international media attention, there remains not one word about the potential history-making ouster of the Democrat anywhere on his official website. Instead, Davis has elected to continue shades of business-as-usual, with his...
Sunday, 22 June 2003 12:00 AM
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