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The Governor Strikes Back

As challengers line up for the California recall election, one small fact is getting overlooked: Gray Davis isn't dead yet.

7:15 AM, Jul 30, 2003 • By NICOLE TOPHAM
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WHILE NEWS ABOUT California's recall election is changing as fast as tickers on Wall Street, two things are certain: there will be a recall election October 7, and it will be a vicious campaign: Gray Davis has vowed to fight like a Bengal tiger--which both Democrats and Republicans will tell you is no idle threat.

The most pronounced attacks in this instance have been against Rep. Darrell Issa, who was the first officially declared candidate against Davis. During an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition," Davis accused Issa of being a "right-winger" and went through the usual litany of "right-wing" offenses: "He's against gun control. He won't support a moratorium on offshore drilling. And he's not for a woman's right to choose."

And yet Davis (whose approval rating is 22 percent) is not fighting by himself. Bill Clinton has been invited to California to help the anti-recall movement. Democratic candidates are holding back, following California Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson's advice for the party to remain united. Back in May the unions and other Davis supporters formed the group Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall and have raised $1,759,001 to keep Davis. Also, the group recently filed a lawsuit claiming that some of the circulators gathering signatures petition were working illegally. The hearing is set for August 8. On their website,, only a small percentage of the content has to do with arguments against the recall. The rest of the content concentrates fire on Issa, claiming that he's an "extremist" and "has supported Congressional efforts to strip federal workers of their union protections." According to, "Issa has positioned himself to the right of Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott."

And Davis and the Democrats have another line of attack: The special election will cost the state approximately $30 million, none of which is in the overdue budget, which was just passed yesterday in Sacramento. This week Standard & Poor's lowered California's credit rating by three notches, making it the lowest in the nation. With the state facing a $34.8 billion deficit, Democrats are eagerly labeling the recall effort the pork that broke the budget's back.

Gray Davis began the song, reminding reporters that the money needed for the special election "will come out of the same pot of money that pays for teachers and police officers." Davis media consultant David Doak told reporters for the Associated Press that, "The average voter cares much more about what the recall election is costing them." After announcing the date for the election, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustmante again reminded Californians of the price tag. Only this time he said it would cost $35 million.

Republicans are cheering this recall election as a major victory. But Gray Davis isn't dead yet. If, after a $30 million election, Davis winds up still in the Governor's seat, the California GOP's recent time in the wilderness could turn out to be just the beginning.

Nicole Topham, a former intern at The Weekly Standard, is a writer in California.