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AFL-CIO backs California governor, asks Democrats not to run

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Gov. Gray Davis got a key boost in his fight for political survival Tuesday as national AFL-CIO leaders voted to oppose the recall and urge elected Democrats not to run in the Oct. 7 election.

"The recall will cost $70 million and will produce an uncertain future for our nation's largest state," said the resolution by the labor group. "We call on all state leaders in the Democratic Party to stand united with the governor and stay off the recall ballot."

The vote in Chicago came a day after California's AFL-CIO sent a letter to state Democrats with the same message.

Davis addressed the AFL-CIO Executive Council in Chicago, where labor leaders from around the nation were gathering. The council voted unanimously to support him, said Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, which represents more than 2 million union workers in the state.

Davis also told the labor group that he needed some $10 million to fight the recall, Pulaski said, adding it would be up to individual unions to contribute. That would represent about half the amount officials with Davis' campaign committee have said they plan to raise.

In the letter, California labor leaders vowed to stand by Davis, whose approval rating has plummeted over his handling of the state's budget woes and energy crisis.

"United we will defeat this ultraconservative coup attempt," said the three-paragraph letter sent to California Democrats in Congress and the state legislature, as well as statewide elected officials.

The labor backing comes amid crumbling public support from Davis' fellow party members. Some Democrats have been calling for the party to put a strong candidate on the two-part ballot to ensure the governorship remains in Democratic hands if Davis is recalled.

The deadline for candidates to file is 5 p.m. Saturday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Monday she strongly opposes the recall, but that Democrats should field another candidate if polls show Davis will lose his job. Three members of Congress have called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the state's most popular politician, to run.

Labor leaders have disagreed with some of Feinstein's stances, but Pulaski said, "That's not part of our deliberations." Feinstein has said she does not intend to run.

Pulaski's letter did not indicate how labor leaders would respond to Democrats who strayed from the strategy of unity, but it was a clear indication that any Democrat who did so would risk the displeasure of one of the party's most powerful constituencies.

"We anticipate that you will work with us over the next week to maintain this clear, united message and that you will do everything in your power to campaign against the recall between now and the election," the letter said.

Asked whether labor would take any type of action against politicians who defected from the strategy, Pulaski said, "All I can say to that is, read the letter. I want to just hold strong to the strength of the comments of the letter."

Davis is the first California governor to face a recall and would be only the second governor nationwide to be removed from office if the effort succeeds.

While at the meeting of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, Davis also had an hourlong private meeting Monday with former President Clinton.

Davis declined to say what Clinton said, other than to call it a "very good meeting."

Also Tuesday, the nine Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination expressed support for Davis, joining national party Chairman Terry McAuliffe in signing an open letter against the recall.


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