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2003-08-10 21:11, andi_usa: - CompuServe News: Over 130 File to Run for Calif. Governor By STEVE LAWRENCE SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - More than 130 Californians took the once-in-a-lifetime shot to run for governor Saturday in the state's recall election as Democrats successfully whittled their own field to one major backup candidate in case Gov. Gray Davis is ousted. Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, under pressure from fellow party members, dropped out two hours before the filing deadline, leaving Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as the only prominent Democrat on the ballot. That raised party officials' hopes of hanging onto the governor's office if the unpopular Davis is voted out Oct. 7. If voters turn the governor out of office, Bustamante will compete against a field that includes last year's gubernatorial runner-up, Bill Simon, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth - all Republicans - and columnist Arianna Huffington, an independent. The field also includes former child actor Gary Coleman, comedian Gallagher, porn czar Larry Flynt and Angelyne, a buxom artist whose likeness appears on billboards around Los Angeles. Despite the onslaught of wannabes aiming to run the nation's most populous state, Davis remained confident Saturday. ``Many people are trying to become the governor. I am the governor,'' Davis said to laughter after a bill signing at a health clinic in Santa Monica. ``Whether the people of the state want me to stay 60 days or three-and-a-half years - as hopefully they will eventually decide - I am going to do my level best to improve their lives every day I have.'' A new Time-CNN poll released Saturday, however, showed voters leaning toward recalling Davis. Fifty-four percent said they would vote Davis out, while 35 percent were opposed. Of the better-known candidates, 25 percent chose Schwarzenegger, 15 percent chose Bustamante, while others were in single digits. The poll of 508 voters was conducted Friday and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Davis, who has seen his approval ratings plummet in recent months, is the first governor of the Golden State to face a recall. Voter anger has been building since the state's 2000-2001 energy crisis. Since then, Californians have witnessed the decline of the state's technology sector and a record $38 billion budget deficit, which triggered a tripling of the vehicle tax, forced college fees to rise as much as 30 percent and has threatened state employees with layoffs and pay cuts. If the campaign against him succeeds, Davis would be only the nation's second governor to be recalled. In 1921, North Dakota voters ousted Gov. Lynn Frazier as banks were failing, crop prices were plummeting and Frazier was mired in allegations of promoting radical socialism. The final casting call for the nation's political blockbuster unfolded Saturday, as more than a quarter of the 505 people who took out applications to run turned in their necessary papers to get on the burgeoning ballot. By day's end, more than 130 people had filed to run, according to an Associated Press survey of counties. The official number of candidates who will appear on the ballot won't be until released until the secretary of state certifies the paperwork Wednesday. To get on the ballot, candidates had to either pay a $3,500 filing fee and submit signatures of at least 65 registered voters or submit 10,000 voter signatures to skip the fee. Schwarzenegger arrived at the Los Angeles County recorder's office with his wife, Maria Shriver, to the shrieks of gawkers. He vowed to be the people's governor as he signed autographs. ``I will be there for everybody, young and old, men and women alike. It doesn't make any difference,'' he said. Schwarzenegger greeted Huffington, who arrived at the same time to file. She and Shriver hugged. Huffington called for more fuel-efficient vehicles and noted that Schwarzenegger had arrived in an SUV while she arrived in a hybrid vehicle. There were a few boos and cries of ``Arnold, Arnold.'' Ueberroth, who also was chief organizer of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, said he could bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans. The Republican businessman said he would only serve the three years remaining on Davis' term, which is up in January 2007. ``We're not going to run any negative ads. We're not going to trash-talk the other candidates,'' Ueberroth's consultant, Dan Schnur, said after campaign papers were filed in Orange County. Brisk activity at county election offices across the state capped four days punctuated with bombshell announcements, beginning when the state's most popular politician, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, brushed aside efforts to draft her as a Democratic backup to Davis. That was trumped by the Hollywood moment: Schwarzenegger walked onto the stage of the ``Tonight Show with Jay Leno'' Wednesday and announced his candidacy after his aides said he was leaning against running. The following day, Bustamante and Garamendi broke earlier pledges not to run and announced their intentions in the state capital. Later Thursday, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who bankrolled the recall effort with $1.7 million of his own money, tearfully announced in San Diego that he would not run. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan said he wouldn't run and endorsed Schwarzenegger. It took 897,158 voter signatures - 12 percent of the total number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election - to get the recall election approved. The secretary of state's office has estimated the special election will cost California taxpayers $67 million. The recall ignited passions that were evident during a clash Saturday in Sacramento between anti-recall forces and recall proponents. Police said there were no arrests after some pushing and shoving. The opportunity to become the state's chief executive had fired political aspirations in all corners of the state that had ``only in California'' written all over it. Flynt entered, along with a bail bondsman, a discount cigarette chain owner, a medical marijuana activist, porn actress Mary Carey and Michael Wozniak, a retired Oakland police officer who says the centerpiece of his effort will be legalizing ownership of ferrets as pets. Mathilda Karel Spak, 100, said her age shouldn't hamper her chances of winning the election. ``I've made plans until 105,'' the centenarian said. ``Then I'll take things easy.'' 08/10/03 04:40 -
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