California governor says he doesn't fear recall election

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Gov. Gray Davis said Tuesday he did not fear a recall election, which appeared nearly certain to qualify for the ballot this week.

"If the people want me to present my credentials again, I do not fear them," Davis said during an appearance at an East Los Angeles health clinic.

He predicted voters would reject a recall.

"This election is not about changing governors. It's about changing direction and I am confident the voters of this state will not opt for a right-wing agenda over a progressive agenda," he said.

Potential candidates to replace Davis readied their campaigns knowing they may have just days to announce their candidacies. An election would likely come in late September or early October.

, and under state law candidates must announce at least 59 days in advance that they plan to run.

Without mentioning him by name, the governor attacked U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican who funded the recall drive and is the only declared major-party candidate to replace Davis.

"I don't think any person's personal agenda ought to be the reason to put this state through the wringer," Davis said, referring to the projected $30 million to $35 million cost of an election.

Jonathan Wilcox, a spokesman for Issa, said voters were entitled to an election in the fall.

"The direct democracy of this citizen action is inevitable. Gray Davis will be out and a new governor will be elected," Wilcox said.

Elections officials in California's 58 counties have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to finish counting 1.6 million signatures and verifying them through a random sampling. Proponents need 897,158 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

If totals reported to the secretary of state's office Wednesday surpass 110 percent of the needed signatures, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will certify that the recall has qualified. He could make the announcement as early as Thursday.

By Tuesday afternoon, Shelley's office said on its Web site that nearly 400,000 valid signatures had already been reported.

Supporters of the governor were still pursuing a court challenge to stop Shelley from certifying the recall until a hearing on their allegations that signatures were gathered illegally. No action had been taken on an appeal they filed Monday.

Besides Issa, potential GOP candidates include actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and businessman Bill Simon. Schwarzenegger was returning Tuesday from promoting "Terminator 3" in Europe. The actor's political advisers say they expect him to decide to run.

Simon, who ran unsuccessfully against Davis last year, has been preparing for a campaign though he hasn't announced a final decision.

A recall ballot would have two parts: Voters would vote yes or no on recalling Davis, and would then choose from a list of candidates to replace him.

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