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If Recall Qualifies, a Certain Writer May Jump Into the Race

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Now don’t get me wrong, folks. It’s not that I don’t like my current job.

But watching the circus created by the congressman who’s bankrolling the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis, I got an idea, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Sure, Davis is nobody’s hero, and he helped create the mess he’s in. But I almost -- almost -- find myself feeling sorry for the guy.

Early in his first term, I visited Davis in Sacramento, and he told me there was a good reason he raised money as if it was an Olympic event. He said you never know when some arrogant California millionaire is going to come along and try to buy you out of office.

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Sure enough, Bill Simon and Dick Riordan gave it their best shot. And when they couldn’t get the job done fair and square in the last election, along came Darrell Issa, the greenhorn first-term congressman from Vista who’s putting the mustard into the recall campaign.

If you searched the state high and low, crunched numbers, fed names into a computer, and prayed to Jesus, you could not come up with a candidate more out of touch with California voters than Darrell Issa. This guy makes Bill “Simple” Simon seem like a Renaissance man.

There’s nothing wrong with running for public office as a staunch conservative and trusted friend of the National Rifle Assn., but this isn’t Idaho. And yet, because Issa amassed a $100-million fortune selling noise pollution (he hawks car alarms), he can probably force a recall election that will cost taxpayers at least $25 million.

If the recall qualifies for the ballot, voters will be asked whether Davis should be dumped, and if so, who should replace him. There’s no limit on the number of candidates who can run, and 10% or 20% of the vote could put you in the governor’s mansion.

That’s right. Any dope who collects 65 nominating signatures and pays a $3,500 filing fee can get his name on the ballot.

Do you see where I’m headed?

Unfortunately, I don’t have $100 million to play with. But I can probably scrape together $3,500, and I know where I can get some free media. Besides, it’s time someone with a discernible personality threw a bash or two in the governor’s mansion.

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Friends and neighbors (amigos y vecinos), as a native of this great state (yo naci aqui), I know its problems and its potential, and I know we deserve better.

Gray Davis had his chance; Darrell Issa hasn’t earned one.

And I’m available.

Lest Gray and Darrell think I’m kidding, here’s a little news flash, boys:

My campaign strategist is a man with no peer. He’s brash. He’s brilliant.

He’s Garry South.

If South could get Davis elected twice, he can work with anybody.

So what do I need to do to become governor? I asked him.

South said he doesn’t think I can afford his services, but he’s going to send me a business proposal. In the meantime, the man who torpedoed former L.A. Mayor Riordan in the last Republican primary said I should lay Issa out before he knows what hit him.

“His personal background has lots of interesting things in it,” South said, “including being indicted for car theft while he was in the Army.”

The case was dismissed, but in a knockdown slugfest for governor, little qualifiers like that sometimes get lost in the mix.

I asked South how I should position myself on the issues, but his answer proved why he gets the big bucks. You don’t waste time on issues in the heat of a campaign, South said.

“You can’t stay competitive if you allow them to trash you to the full extent their millions will allow,” South said, “while you talk about your three-point plan on solving California’s transportation problems.”

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All right, I got it. No solutions to problems, just attack like a Doberman.

Issa’s a weakling, South said. He’s a liability to his own party, which would rather see him take up croquet or some other hobby -- anything but politics.

If I want “sure-fire winners,” South said, I can nail Issa for being a Cro-Magnon on gun control, offshore drilling and abortion.

This is going to be easier than I thought. But my problem isn’t Issa, it’s Davis. With his fund-raising skills, he may have $8 billion by election day and pour it into a smear campaign.

I’ve got skeletons, folks, and I’ve got vices. Let me be upfront about that. Knowing Davis, he’ll parade them on TV night and day.

But I’ve also got Garry South, who can trade blows with anyone. He advised that I do what Issa does, and trash Davis “for every ill besetting Western civilization.”

He said that if it were just Davis and Issa, Davis would win in a cakewalk. But throw me into the mix, said California’s best and brightest political strategist, and this race is wide open.

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“I don’t know what happens,” South said. “It depends on whether you acquit yourself well.”

You hear that, Guv?

The bumper stickers are already being printed:

I May Be Gray, but I’m No Davis.

In fact, I give voters my solemn pledge not to raise or spend a nickel on my campaign.

I asked South if it’ll help that my name is Lopez. California’s ready, isn’t it?

“It’ll help until people find out you’re actually a Seventh-day Adventist and your mother is from Lithuania,” he said.

It comes down to this:

I can’t match Issa and Davis in the money department.

Is there a better reason to give me your vote?

*

Steve Lopez for Governor: If It’s Going to Be a Circus, Let’s Send in the Best Clown. To add your name to the nominating petition, e-mail a request to steve.lopez@latimes.com.

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