Schwarzenegger Announces Calif. Gov. Bid
LOS ANGELES – Arnold Schwarzenegger ended the suspense Wednesday and jumped into the race for California governor, instantly becoming the best-known of the declared candidates seeking to replace Democrat Gray Davis in a recall.
The surprise announcement by the “Terminator” actor, a moderate Republican, capped a day of fast-paced developments in one of the most unpredictable political races in recent history.
Earlier, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein had ruled out a run, labeling the election “more and more like a carnival every day.” And political commentator Arianna Huffington declared she would run as an independent.
Schwarzenegger, 56, announced his decision during a taping of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” calling it the toughest he’s made since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978.
“The politicians are fiddling, fumbling and failing,” he said. “The man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He is failing them terribly, and this is why he needs to be recalled and this is why I am going to run for governor.”
Schwarzenegger’s advisers had said in recent days that he was leaning against putting his name on the Oct. 7 election ballot because of opposition from his wife, journalist Maria Shriver.
Schwarzenegger told Leno that he’s not afraid of Davis allies attacking him as “a womanizer” or “a terrible person.” “I know that they’re going to throw everything at me,” he said.
Davis issued a statement calling Schwarzenegger merely the latest in a long list of people who had declared their intent to run, noting that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is among them.
“The more candidates who join, the greater the likelihood that a small minority of voters will be controlling California’s future,” Davis said.
He also reminded voters of the cost of a special recall election, estimated by the secretary of state’s office at $67 million ó “money which would be better spent on our schools and our children.”
Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, another moderate Republican, has said he would enter the race if Schwarzenegger did not, and polls have shown Riordan would be a stronger candidate than the actor. Riordan spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said Wednesday that he had no immediate comment.
Feinstein’s decision not to run gave a big boost to Davis, while frustrating some Democrats who wanted her to run to ensure the governorship would remain in the party’s hands if Davis lost.
“After thinking a great deal about this recall, its implications for the future, and its misguided nature, I have decided that I will not place my name on the ballot,” Feinstein said in a statement.
“I deeply believe the recall is a terrible mistake and will bring to the depth and breadth of California instability and uncertainty, which will be detrimental to our economic recovery and decision-making,” she said.
The recall election is yet another setback for Davis, who has seen his popularity plummet as the state grapples with a record $38 billion budget deficit.
It also is the latest force to bedevil Californians, who in recent years have endured an energy crisis, the collapse of the dot-com economy and a federally mandated cutback in one of the state’s main water supplies. Residents now face the prospect of higher car taxes and college fees to close the state’s budget gap.
Davis is the first California governor to face a recall and would be only the second governor nationwide to be removed from office if the effort succeeds.
Analysts from both parties believed the governor’s chances for survival would have dramatically diminished if Feinstein, who tops polls as California’s most popular politician, was on the ballot as an alternative.
Her decision came a day after a strong endorsement for Davis from the AFL-CIO. Both developments were key victories for the governor, whose support from fellow party members had appeared to be weakening.
“I’m very pleased with Sen. Feinstein’s announcement,” Davis told San Francisco radio station KGO-AM.
“To the extent that Democrats get in the race, it makes it look like a normal election, and legitimates what is really an effort by the right wing to steal back an election they couldn’t win last November,” he said. “I think at the end of the day people will realize that the party is better served rallying around its sitting governor.”
Some party members still thought otherwise.
“I want to back the strongest candidate and it’s important that we coalesce around one, and now I’m appealing to the leaders, the folks whose pay grade is one or two notches up from mine, to figure out who our strongest candidate is and lead us in coalescing behind that candidate,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who had supported a Feinstein candidacy.
One possibility was U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who had supported a Feinstein candidacy and said she might run if Feinstein didn’t.
“I have a feeling something will be decided tomorrow probably one way or the other,” said Sanchez’s spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks.
Members of California’s congressional delegation discussed the matter in a conference call Wednesday, with the majority leaning toward finding a consensus candidate, said a source familiar with the discussion who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Huffington, the ex-wife of former Republican Congressman Michael Huffington, announced her candidacy at a news conference in Los Angeles.
“I’m not, to say the least, a conventional candidate. But these are not conventional times,” she said. “And if we keep electing the same kind of politicians who got us into the same kind of mess funded by the same kind of special interests, we’ll never get out of this mess.”
Michael Huffington also has taken out papers, but has not indicated whether he will enter the race.
The ballot also is likely to include several conservative Republicans. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, who funded the recall, is a declared candidate, and state Sen. Tom McClintock filed papers Tuesday. Businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in November, also is expected to run.
Meanwhile, California’s Supreme Court justices huddled behind closed doors for hours Wednesday to decide whether to consider several challenges to the recall election, including a petition to bar any replacement candidates from the ballot.
The justices were expected to announce Thursday whether they would hear the petitions, a spokeswoman said.
Schwarzenegger Announces Calif. Gov. Bid