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Budget Woes, Hints of Graft Led to This Recall

Times Staff Writer

Until the California recall qualified for the ballot, it’s a good bet that the most commonly known fact about North Dakota was that a group of serious business interests considered improving the state’s image, if not its climate and social life, by dropping “North” from its name, leaving it to share a moniker with a model of pickup truck.

But now everyone knows that in 1921, North Dakotans scored a national first, recalling their three-term governor, Lynn J. Frazier, their attorney general, and the agriculture and labor commissioner.

North Dakota, too, was in economic straits, after drops in beef, wheat and land values. Frazier was a Republican, but in N.D. the conflict pitted Republican vs. Republican. One branch advocated creation of state-owned industries to get around private business influence, much as the California recall and initiative process were begun to get around Southern Pacific and other industries’ stranglehold on state lawmakers. And like Gov. Gray Davis, Frazier ended up with a budget bigger than the tax base to support it.

There was a lot of other stuff, involving other officials and hints of graft. And one anti-Frazier lawmaker quoted from a public library book about “free love rot” and whether marriage was necessary -- as if Frazier had ordered the book himself.

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But as the Grand Forks Herald pointed out, Frazier himself was a teetotaler, a nonsmoker and a churchgoer who disliked dancing but so loved the University of North Dakota that he named his twin daughters Unie and Versie.

And remorseful Dakotans liked him enough after the recall to send him to the U.S. Senate for 18 years.

Davis Won’t Replace Davis in Election

Flotsam and jetsam from the recall:

* Now there are no Davises running in the recall election. Palo Alto’s Scott Davis dropped out of the race after reports that he was the chief suspect in an unsolved 1996 Atlanta murder case, news that would make campaigning “a difficult process at best,” according to his Web site.

* Officials at the UC Merced campus want former candidate Bill Simon Jr. to pay them a visit, after the Republican, in a CNN interview, cited as an example of wasteful spending the fact that the not-yet-opened university has a payroll.

* Porn movie performer and gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey will go on a dinner date -- just dinner, if you please -- with anyone donating at least $5,000 to her campaign. Because she’s an independent, she says, “I have to be creative and develop more unconventional methods of raising money.”

* Arnold Schwarzenegger’s scheduled appearance on the Howard Stern radio show was postponed -- by the show.

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* Gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) was one of only three to vote against a bill by state Sen. Nell Soto, a Pomona Democrat, to toughen penalties for staging cockfights, raising the penalty from a maximum $1,000 fine and a year in jail to fines of up to $25,000 for a second offense. Support for the measure accelerated after evidence linked illegal cockfighting with the spread of Newcastle disease, which has devastated parts of the poultry industry.

* Taco Bell, the Orange County-based fast-food chain, is asking patrons to vote with their stomachs. Ordering a certain beef taco will count as a vote for Schwarzenegger, a certain burrito will count as a vote for any of the 134 other candidates, and a soft chicken taco order counts as a vote of support for Gov. Gray Davis. The menu-vote selection -- Schwarzenegger, beef, Davis, chicken, get it? -- could be said to reflect the political preferences of a man who until three years ago owned 13 Orange County Taco Bells: former Republican assemblyman Bill Campbell, who once displayed pictures of Taco Bell Chihuahuas among photos of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in his Sacramento office.

For Candidates, the Party Never Ends

Feeling alone? Ignored? A wallflower at parties? Well, make your social life sparkle -- run for governor of California!

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The six score-plus men and women running for governor have been besieged with varieties of invitations and importunings since they declared their political intentions. These two were forwarded by candidate Gary Leonard, Democrat and photographer-about-town: “Dear Candidate: The Modesto A’s Professional Baseball Club, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, cordially invite you to throw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to our Fan Appreciation Night ... " A hundred-something first pitches? Even with the offer of five minutes to pitch the candidate’s own spiel during pregame ceremonies, Leonard sent regrets; he had to work that night. But eight candidates showed up.

And this recent Democrat to Democrat request: “I am contacting you today on behalf of the Draft Jim Traficant for President committee. As you may know, the Congressman is America’s number one political prisoner who was targeted because of his strong beliefs against ‘free trade’ with the Chinese, the IRS and the income tax.... We are asking you as a candidate for Governor of California to endorse Congressman Traficant’s bid for the presidency. We believe that an endorsement on your part would both help highlight the Congressman’s wrongful convictions and bring your candidacy to National attention as a Democrat willing to stand up against the corrupt Federal Government.”

Traficant was convicted of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion and kicked out of his House seat last year. He’s serving an eight-year sentence -- that’s two terms in presidential math.

Points Taken

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* L.A. County supervisors Michael Antonovich and Gloria Molina are using money from office accounts to keep the water on. Antonovich is putting up $50,000 to keep Castaic Lake open a week longer than scheduled, and the Molina money will keep six pools in her district open through Labor Day.

* Flashback: In June 1998, the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office predicted that cutting the state’s vehicle registration fee -- the car tax -- could result in (gasp) annual budget deficits of almost $850 million by the turn of the century!

* Former Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh joins his old adversary and colleague, former Democratic Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, in the California government practice at the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Roe and Maw. “We work together fabulously,” Hertzberg told the L.A. Daily Journal.

* Los Angeles Democratic Rep. Diane Watson has been given the Democracy in Action award by the California Peace Action organization for her support for human rights, nuclear control and international cooperation measures.

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You Can Quote Me

“ ‘Dianne, what’s happening out in California? It’s like you turned the United States on its side and all of the nuts fell to California.’ ”

-- California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, telling a group of West Los Angeles business leaders about being teased about the recall by a fellow member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The quote is a variant of one often attributed to architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Patt Morrison’s columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. This week’s contributor is Patrick McGreevy.

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