California voters will decide October 7 if their governor, Gray Davis, should complete his term in office or be replaced. California's lieutenant governor announced the election date, as Mr. Davis's supporters and opponents plotted strategy.
Wednesday, California's secretary of state said backers of a petition drive to remove Mr. Davis from office had collected more than the needed 900,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante announced the recall election.
He said, "The date that I've decided to choose for this election is Tuesday, October 7."
That date is just within the 80-day limit required by state law after the recall certification. It leaves candidates with little time for their campaigns and local election officials with little time for preparations.
The ballot will have two parts, the first asking if Mr. Davis should be removed from office, and the second allowing voters to select the candidate that they want to replace him. Part two will only take effect if a majority of the voters approves of the governor's ouster.
Mr. Davis, a centrist Democrat, calls the recall drive "a hostile takeover by the right," and says he has confidence in the voters.
"I'm honored to be governor of this state, and I think while they have problems with me, while I've made mistakes, while we have a tough economy all across the country, at the end of the day, I believe they will acknowledge we have been making progress in a tough economy, and I don't think they're going to replace my progressive agenda with a conservative agenda," Mr. Davis said.
The state's financial problems are a big part of the reason that many voters are angry with Mr. Davis. California has a projected budget deficit of $38 billion, and efforts to close the gap are deadlocked. The governor's supporters hope if he brokers an agreement, it will boost his popularity.
Three Democrats spoke outside Los Angeles city hall, with councilman Jack Weiss saying recall backers failed to mention the high cost of the special election, estimated at $30 million or more.
"I would like to have seen a financial disclosure sticker on these recall petitions," Mr. Weiss said. "I would love to know how many of those people would have signed those petitions if they had known it would cost tens of millions of dollars. It could have even more severe repercussion on Wall Street or with the state's bond rating."
The law says Mr. Davis can also claim reimbursement for his campaign expenses if he survives the election.
Some of the governor's fellow Democrats have turned to the courts to stop or delay the election. But so far, their allegations of irregularities in the petition-gathering process have failed to persuade any judges.
Republican contenders for governor will include Darrell Issa, a wealthy congressman who bankrolled the recall process with a donation of more than $1.6 million. Other possible candidates include Richard Riordan, the popular former mayor of Los Angeles, the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bill Simon, a former candidate for governor who narrowly lost to Mr. Davis last November.
Those who choose to run must quickly make their decisions. The registration deadline is just 59 days before the October election.