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Candidates Scramble to Keep Up with Changing Events in California Recall Vote - 2003-08-08

Movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has picked up the documents he needs to run for governor of California, where an unusual special election is to be held to determine if current governor will be removed from office. Officials from both major parties are scrambling to keep pace with fast changing events.

Thursday saw developments almost by the hour as Democratic Governor Gray Davis fights to keep his job, and Republicans and Democrats are lining up to replace him.

California's Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamante, is urging voters to support Governor Davis and vote "no" on the recall, but he is entering the race anyway.

"Just in case he doesn't make the recall, this is going to give Democrats another option," said Mr. Bustamante.

In Los Angeles, Hollywood's Arnold Schwarzenegger was greeted by cheering crowds as he picked up the paperwork to run as a Republican.

"This is the next step in running for governor of California, and to bring the government back to the people," he said.

Also on the Republican side, Peter Ueberroth, a former commissioner of baseball, picked up the papers to run for office. And before the morning was finished, California's insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, announced he would enter the race.

Polls show that Governor Davis could well lose the recall, as voters show anger over a $38 billion budget deficit.

A major corporate group, California Business Roundtable, opposes the recall as disruptive to the state's economy. But the group's director, Bill Hauck, says California government is "dysfunctional" and many Californians blame the governor.

"People of California are angry, frustrated, discouraged, disengaged, and believe the political system in the state is broken and needs fixing," he explained. "They don't know how to accomplish that, but they're looking for some leadership in that respect and I think that's at a level that I have not seen for 30 years."

Barely one in five Californians support governor Davis, who has the lowest polling numbers in the history of the office.

State senator Deborah Ortiz has been planning strategy with her Democratic colleagues, now that two Democrats are in the recall race. They prefer a single choice to increase chances of keeping the office, and she thinks Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, a fellow Hispanic, is the best option.

"He logically is the next person in the line of succession. There is a constituency of Latinos across the state that might give that extra edge that no other politician has. But I don't think we keep Garamendi out," she said.

Governor Davis faced a setback Thursday as the California Supreme Court declined to intervene in the recall election, saying the vote will go ahead October 7. Voters will answer two questions: first, whether Mr. Davis should be removed from office, and second, who should replace him. More than 400 people have requested the paperwork to file for candidacy, and they have until 5:00 p.m. Saturday to do so.

One who will not be running is the man who made the recall election possible. A tearful Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman, gave $1.7 million to help collect the signatures to qualify the recall for the ballot. But his polling numbers are low and he says he will not run for governor.