Union Tribune

September 10, 2003

Boxer to urge vote for Bustamante if Davis is recalled


WASHINGTON Sen. Barbara Boxer yesterday said she will soon send California voters a letter urging them to choose Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as the state's next leader should Gov. Gray Davis lose the Oct. 7 recall election.

The letter, which will be in campaign fliers aimed at female voters and paid for by Bustamante's campaign, makes Boxer the most prominent person to aggressively campaign for Bustamante in an election in which some Democrats notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein prefer to ignore Davis' potential replacements.

Boxer, who was less than optimistic yesterday about Davis' ability to beat the recall, also will appear at campaign events with Bustamante.

"There's certainly a motivated electorate that wants to get the governor," Boxer, D-Calif., told a gathering of the California State Society, a group of lobbyists and others who represent the state's interests. "Will there be an equally motivated electorate that says this recall is a disaster for our state? For our country? I don't know."

A spokesman for Californians Against the Costly Recall said the Boxer fliers do not indicate declining confidence in Davis' ability to keep his job. The spokesman, Gabriel Sanchez, pointed to a new Field Poll that suggests support for the recall has stalled, with 55 percent of likely voters inclined to oust Davis, down from 58 percent in August.

"You have Democrats up and down the state, and throughout this nation, united in opposing this recall," Sanchez said. "The more people learn about this recall, the less likely they are to support it."

On the recall ballot, voters will be asked two questions: Should Davis be recalled from office? And, if so, who should replace him?

Boxer has made it clear she opposes the recall, and she has appeared at campaign events with Davis urging voters to keep the Democratic governor in office. Nonetheless, Boxer was among the first in Congress to call for a Democratic candidate to appear on the Oct. 7 recall ballot should voters kick Davis out of office.

"I feel the recall is wrong, and I feel the appropriate person to step in if the recall does pass would be the man who was elected twice to step in if a catastrophe happened to (Davis)," Boxer said yesterday, referring to the lieutenant governor's official duty to succeed Davis should he be incapacitated. "And that would be Cruz Bustamante."

Until now, however, Boxer has not campaigned for Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat among the 135 replacement candidates on the ballot.

Bustamante campaign consultant Richie Ross called Boxer's participation in the mailing a "tremendous" boost for Bustamante's campaign.

Ross said California households in coming weeks will get fliers that include a letter from Boxer urging them to vote against the recall, but to also vote for Bustamante to ensure a Democrat remains in the governor's office.

He said the fliers will go to Democratic and independent women, and that Bustamante's campaign will pay for them. Ross would not reveal how many fliers are being mailed, what parts of the state will get them, or how much the mailing will cost.

Boxer's decision to lend her name to Bustamante's campaign illustrates the split that has developed among California Democrats on how best to keep a Democrat in the governor's office.

Some, like Feinstein, believe the best strategy is to urge Californians to vote against the recall, without endorsing candidates who want to replace Davis.