Daily Breeze

August 22. 2003

California House Democrats endorse Bustamante

By TOBY ECKERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- Ending weeks of internal debate, California's Democratic
congressional delegation on Thursday endorsed Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's
bid to become governor if Gov. Gray Davis is ousted in the Oct. 7 recall
election.

""We strongly oppose the recall, but if California voters make a
different choice, then Lt. Gov. Bustamante is the appropriate person to
assume the office,'' Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who heads the delegation, said in
a written statement.

The decision came after a conference call among lawmakers including
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

In an interview, Lofgren, D-San Jose, said two-thirds of the 33 House
Democrats from California participated in the conference call ""and
there was no dissent.''

The lawmakers denied that the decision was a sign that they had given
up on Davis' chances of defeating the recall. But they thought it wise
to hedge their bets.

""It's clear that we have a chance to beat the recall. But it's also
clear that that's not guaranteed. And it's clear that Cruz has a damn
good chance of prevailing on the second part of the ballot,'' said Rep.
Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, who was an early advocate of having a
prominent Democratic candidate on the ballot.

By law, Davis' name cannot appear on the part of the ballot listing
candidates to succeed him.

Strategists for Davis had a low-key reaction to the lawmakers' decision.
""It's different tactics but the same goal, and that's defeating the
recall,'' said Gabriel Sanchez, spokesman for Californians Against the
Costly Recall of the Governor. ""We look at it this way: We're pleased
that Democrats statewide...are against the recall. Where there are
differences in strategy, the goal remains the same.''

Asked if a message to vote ""No'' but back Bustamante could confuse
some voters or lessen Davis' chances of beating back the recall, Sanchez
said:

""This is the first of its kind. The conventional wisdom isn't exactly
conventional. If it increases turnout, that's great, because that helps
us defeat the recall.''