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Almost 200 Candidates File in California Governor's Race - 2003-08-11

In California, 195 candidates have filed to run for governor in the October 7 recall election. Several are serious threats to incumbent Governor Gray Davis, and many are not.

California voters are angry over the state's energy crisis two years ago and a massive budget deficit this year. Many blame the governor for the problems. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, nearly two-thirds of registered voters would choose to oust him if a vote were held today.

Among those who hope to replace him, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most prominent candidate and the frontrunner.

His fellow Republican, Bill Simon, narrowly lost to Gray Davis in last November's election. Mr. Simon is a candidate in the October recall and he urges the actor-turned-politician to focus on substance.

"This is not time for sound bites, Hollywood scripts, or short prescriptions," he said.

Liberal commentator Arianna Huffington is the only prominent woman in the race.

Green Party candidate Peter Camejo says he and Ms. Huffington have talked about joining forces to create a coalition of voters on the left and environmentalists.

Conservative state senator Tom McClintock is the favored candidate of the Republican right. Former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, a moderate Republican, will also be on the ballot.

But most who plan to run are political novices who paid $3,500 and submitted 65 signatures, which are required to enter the race. Hopefuls include the owner of a chain of discount tobacco stores who promises relief to the state's beleaguered smokers.

Porn publisher Larry Flynt is also a candidate, as are former child actor Gary Coleman and a comedian known as "Gallagher."

Candidate Paul Mariano is a Davis supporter who has offered to hire the governor as his chief of staff, if he loses the recall.

A more serious threat to the governor comes from within his own party, from Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. The leading Hispanic candidate, he says he opposes the recall but is running anyway.

"We need to make sure and vote 'no' on the recall, but just in case, we have to vote 'yes' on Bustamante," Mr. Bustamante said.

Governor Davis says he is going about his business as usual, staying above the fray and not campaigning. But he calls the recall drive an effort by Republicans to steal the governorship, and he repeated the point on the NBC Today show.

"This recall is an insult to the eight million people who went to the polls last November and made a decision that I should be governor," he said. "There's a lot of frustration and disappointment out here. I get it. I'm doing my best to work harder to solve people's problems."

Mr. Davis says he has asked former President Bill Clinton and his wife, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to campaign on his behalf in California. Both are popular in the heavily Democratic state, and have the celebrity influence of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, which the governor is lacking.

State officials will certify the final list of candidates Wednesday.