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California Recall Enters Final Phase - 2003-10-05

In the western state of California, the political battle over whether to remove Governor Gray Davis from office is in its final phase. Governor Davis is now questioning whether his chief rival, actor turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, is fit to hold office in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment from several women.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that a total of 15 women have come forward to accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of either groping them or making other unwanted sexual advances over the past thirty years.

A new poll suggests the allegations have not done too much damage yet to the Schwarzenegger campaign. The poll indicates that voters continue to favor the recall of Governor Davis and that Arnold Schwarzenegger remains the top choice as his replacement.

But Governor Davis is trying to draw more attention to the sexual harassment allegations as he makes campaign appearances around the state, like this one Sunday at a hospital in Los Angeles. "These accusations, if true, are very disturbing and raise serious questions about whether Mr. Schwarzenegger should be California's governor," he said. "The question gets down to this: Are all 15 women and their families lying or is Mr. Schwarzenegger not telling us the truth?"

The allegations regarding Mr. Schwarzenegger's treatment of women and comments he once made favorable of Adolph Hitler have mobilized some Democrats into believing they can defeat the recall and keep Governor Davis in office.

Karen Sickler is one of several Democrats who turned out to hear the governor on Sunday. She said a Schwarzenegger victory would be "scary". "I think his character is bad. But on top of that, he has never answered one question about how he would straighten anything out," she said.

Candidate Schwarzenegger has admitted that some of the allegations are true and he has issued several blanket apologies to anyone who may have been offended by his behavior on movie sets over the years.

But he says many of the accusations are false and that the last-minute allegations amount to what he calls dirty politics.

He addressed supporters in the State Capital of Sacramento Sunday at the conclusion of a four-day bus campaign tour. "We have to make sure that everyone who has never voted before goes to the polls on October 7," he said. "That is our chance to take the government back again. Let us all work together. I need your help."

Many Schwarzenegger supporters, including Republicans, independents and even some Democrats who are prepared to desert Gray Davis in the recall vote on Tuesday believe the allegations are politically motivated.

Dwayne Smith recently attended a Schwarzenegger rally north of Los Angeles. "I think people see through all this dirty trick business. We are used to it from Governor Davis," he said.

The Davis campaign denies any involvement in bringing the sexual harassment allegations to light.

In Tuesday's voting, California residents will first be asked whether to recall, or remove, Governor Davis from office. The voters will then choose from 135 possible successors.