For or against, locals agree recall is a circus
August 14, 2003
Whether they support the recall of Gov. Gray Davis or not, both Democrats and Republicans locally seem to agree on one thing. With the historically unprecedented amount and variety of candidates, controversy about the cost of the recall election and the question of whether a recall is supporting or chipping away at the ideals of democracy, the race has thus far been a circus.
“Only in California,” Republican Mayor Ted Owens said. “Right now I’m dodging phone calls from my relatives in the east, because I don’t want to hear it.”
The official count of candidates is 135, including an American Indian tribal chairman, a discount cigarette retailer, a used car salesman and a golf pro. Whether they are running to further a cause, to mock the system or just for 15 minutes of fame is unclear. But among the names on the crowded ballet are some more promising contenders, including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Republican Bill Simon, who lost the race to Gov. Davis last November, state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I think it’s about to get passed the point of being ridiculous,” Owens said. “It’s going to settle down now and get focused from here on out.”
Nancy Lungren, the president of the Truckee-Tahoe Republican Women, Federated was delighted when Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy.
“I believe Arnold can pull together diverse sections of California,” she said. Because he is moderate, he won’t alienate the female voter on the choice issue and will appeal to the strong population of conservative Democrats.
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“We, as republicans, need to have the candidate that can win, and if you’re too conservative, it won’t happen,” she said.
Theresa Duggan, the secretary on the Democratic central committee, doubts his potential as a candidate.
“He’s going to simplify the very complex issues that face us,” she said. “He’s a master at glibness.”
She was disgusted when he compared his decision to run for governor with that of getting a bikini wax or incorporated one of his famous movie quotes, “Hasta la vista, Davis,” to answer an interview question. “I mean, this demeans,” she said.
Lungren believes his appeal goes beyond his fame as an actor or his money. While this is an advantage for him, he has been involved in the political world for a long time, she said.
“It’s not like he’s a Johnny-come-lately,” Lungren said. “He’s been thinking about running for governor for probably two decades. I think he’s been immersed in issues…He’s definitely had his finger on the pulse.”
Barbara Green, a Democrat and the District 5 supervisor for Nevada County, disagrees saying, “What does he know about how to run California. He’s politically inexperienced, and the state is in financial chaos as it is. We need someone experienced in government to help us get out of this financial chaos.”
And that person is Gov. Davis, she said. “Of all the candidates running, he’s got the most experience in running the state. And he was elected fairly last fall. There was nothing illegal or suspicious about the election.”
Karen Meyer, a member of the Truckee-Tahoe Republican Woman, Federated, spoke on her own behalf when she said California needs a fresh face in office.
“I think [the recall is] necessary,” she said. “Davis has cost us too much money, and even though the entire financial deficit, or budget deficit is not entirely his fault. It’s like a football team – you have to fire the manager, not the whole team.”
Owens lists Cruz Bustamante as a serious Democratic contender and McClintock or Simon for the Republicans.
“That’s going to be largely determined by Schwarzenegger’s success or failure,” he said. “If he blows it, those two will be the most viable candidates.”
But both he and Green agree the race is still only beginning, and much can happen before the election Oct. 7.