|Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver (right) with independent candidate for
California governor Arianna Huffington (left) in Los Angeles. (Reuters)
San Francisco, Aug 10 (Reuters): At least 80 people, including Terminator actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, columnist Arianna Huffington, and someone who said he was registering just for the thrill of seeing his name on the ballot, had officially joined the race for California governor when the deadline passed yesterday.
But Gray Davis, the unpopular Democratic incumbent who faces an unprecedented recall election, maintained that most of those running lacked substance, and pledged to fight to keep his job. In what is shaping up as one of the most colorful and potentially chaotic elections in the state’s history, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has emerged as a leading candidate with a high profile and a comfortable television presence that could be difficult to beat.
Democratic hopes for holding onto the office were also revived late in the day, after the state’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, dropped out of the race, leaving the party with a single high-profile candidate, Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante.
Davis himself will not be on the ballot. Voters who go to the polls on October 7 will vote twice: first on whether Davis should be recalled, then on who should replace him in the event he is voted out. A Time/CNN poll released yesterday, before Garamendi had dropped out, found Schwarzenegger would get the biggest slice of the vote — 25 per cent — if the election were held now. Bustamante was second most popular, with 15 per cent.
Wearing jeans and an open-collar shirt, Schwarzenegger told a group of chanting supporters yesterday that he would be “the people’s governor,” before stepping aside to let his wife Maria Shriver offer her own words of support.
Shriver, a prominent Democrat and the niece of slain President John F. Kennedy, said her husband would represent “Democrats, Republicans and independents across the state”.
Others in the race include Bill Simon, a prominent Republican businessman defeated by Davis in 2002, businessman and former Olympic organizer Peter Ueberroth and porn magazine publisher Larry Flynt.
There’s Mary Carey the porn star in American Flag bikini top vowing to tax breast implants but make lap dances tax deductible. There’s Angelyne, the mysterious would-be celebrity who appears on Los Angeles billboards and there’s Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante asking people to support his boss, to whom he rarely speaks, but then vote for him if they can’t, which he assumes they will do if they don’t vote first for Schwarzenegger.
Although some political observers have called the recall process an example of true democracy, others have expressed dismay over the circus atmosphere that has diverted attention from key issues and raised the prospect of placing an unqualified person in office.
“This is a serious matter,” San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said. “Some people will turn it into an opportunity to promote something other than their ability to lead California.” Still, he said, Davis could prevail if he turned the race into a one-on-one contest against apparent front-runner Schwarzenegger.