Union Tribune

July 31, 2003

Davis undaunted by Feinstein backers
Senator has said she opposes recall

By John Marelius

Gov. Gray Davis insisted yesterday he was not worried about cracks in the Democratic wall of unity as a third California Democratic House member urged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to run to replace Davis in the Oct. 7 recall election.

Davis said he was disappointed by the House members' comments but heartened by Feinstein's staunch support.

"I'm very proud of all the Democrats that are standing by my side and particularly Sen. Feinstein," Davis said during a tour of a battered women's shelter in San Francisco. "I think it's highly unlikely there will be any prominent Democratic candidates in the race."

There was little movement on the Republican side. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signaled he is losing interest in running for governor in the recall election, but his close friend, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, has been slow to pick up the baton. A joint announcement from Schwarzenegger and Riordan that had been planned for Monday has been put on hold as Riordan contemplates whether he wants to run and, if so, who should run his campaign.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who financed the recall petition drive, has announced he will run for governor. Two other major Republicans businessman Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks are expected to enter the race. Former Rep. Michael Huffington of Santa Barbara has taken out filing papers but has said he is not sure he will run.

President Bush refused to weigh in on the Davis recall when asked about it at a Washington news conference.

"I think the most important opinion is not mine, but it's the people of California," Bush said. "Their opinion is what matters on the recall. It's their decision to decide whether or not there will be a recall, which they decided. Now they get to decide who the governor is going to be."

Bush will be in San Diego and Orange County in mid-August, when the raucous campaign to oust Davis will be in full swing. California Republicans with close ties to the White House are keeping their distance from the recall.

"We're not used to recalls in Texas," said Bush, the former Texas governor, adding, "Thankfully."

Reacting to Bush's comment, Davis said on San Francisco radio station KGO, "I take the president at his word. I have no idea what his people will do."

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Woodland Hills, added his public reservations about the Democratic strategy to clear the field of prominent Democrat replacement candidates to maintain party solidarity against the recall.

Tuesday, Rep. Cal Dooley, D-Fresno, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, said they opposed the recall, but such a strategy was too risky and Feinstein should become a candidate to prevent the governorship from falling into Republican hands should Davis lose.

The Oct. 7 recall will be a two-part election: yes or no on recalling Davis, and choosing from what is shaping up to be a long list of candidates to replace him if he is removed.

Feinstein has said she strongly opposes the recall and would not run as a potential replacement. Her office would not comment on the latest development.

The prevailing view among Democratic political strategists is that the entry of a popular Democrat such as Feinstein would assure Davis' ouster.

But Sherman said he believed Feinstein's candidacy would make the governor's survival more likely by increasing the turnout among Democratic voters.

"If Dianne Feinstein runs on the second part, she will drive the turnout for the all-important first part," Sherman said. "First and foremost, vote no on the recall. Second, we should unite behind the most prominent Democratic candidate on the second part of the ballot."

The three renegade Democrats reportedly have been under intense pressure from party leaders, and Davis predicted that at least one of them would recant.

Davis said at least one of the House members would "express a contrary view in the next 24 hours and understand that the best chance for a Democrat in the governor's office is with me." He was believed to be referring to Sanchez.

Copley News Service reporter Finlay Lewis contributed to this report.