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Rep. Issa Launches New Davis Recall

Times Staff Writers

Political aides to a wealthy Southern California congressman who aspires to be governor plan to file papers as early as today creating yet another campaign to recall Gray Davis, the incumbent who has plummeted in the polls since his narrow reelection last fall.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican multimillionaire from Vista, plans to provide a six-figure donation as “seed money” for the new recall effort called Rescue California, his political aides said.

“The funding is substantial and more than enough to do what needs to be done,” said Sacramento political consultant Dave Gilliard, who will manage the new effort and represents Issa and half a dozen other Republicans in the California congressional delegation.

While recalls are not uncommon in local California politics, if this effort were to succeed, Davis would be the first governor to face such an election.

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In an interview Monday, Gilliard said the committee will have sufficient money to hire professional petition circulators who will attempt to gather 700,000 to 800,000 signatures of registered voters. Such firms generally charge $1 to $2 per name. Other committees already in operation are expected to gather the balance of the roughly 1.2 million signatures needed to put a recall measure before voters.

Issa, who founded a car alarm manufacturing company, has shown a willingness to bankroll campaigns; he spent $10 million on his failed 1998 campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, and $1.5 million to win his congressional seat in 2000.

UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain said that the recall effort has needed “a sugar daddy, and if Darrell Issa is willing to be the sugar daddy, that helps a lot.”

Hoping not to fuel the recall, Davis has publicly paid scant attention to the effort, even as his political aides and Democratic Party operatives track it closely.

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“I’m doing my job,” Davis said Monday as he signed legislation to shave the state budget shortfall by $3.6 billion. In November’s election, he said, “The people were good enough to ask me to serve for four more years and I’m focused on what they asked me to focus on, which is solving this budget crisis.”

Davis, a prodigious fund-raiser during his first term, had largely stopped soliciting campaign funds until recently, when he sent invitations to Capitol lobbyists and supporters for a $5,000-a-ticket golf tournament May 23 in Carmel. Aides said the money will go not to fight the recall, but for political travel and other expenses that should not be billed to taxpayers. At the finish of Davis’ reelection campaign last fall, he had $1.4 million in the bank.

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar shrugged off the latest recall threat, saying: “We’ll keep an eye on it. But the recall is collapsing under the weight of its own hype.

“A recall is not something that Californians are interested in and the difficulty these multiple committees are having proves that point,” Salazar said. “They’ve already got two committees up and running and they haven’t been able to get the act together. I’m not sure a third is going to help.”

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In March, a Los Angeles Times poll found that a mere 27% of the electorate approved of Davis’ job performance, and nearly two-thirds, or 64%, disapproved. Californians nonetheless opposed the recall effort, 51-39%. Some experts believe that Issa’s involvement could harm the recall’s chances by adding to the perception that it is a partisan effort by Republicans.

Altogether, recall promoters must obtain 897,158 valid signatures of registered voters. The figure is a percentage based on the voter turnout in the most recent election. In order to reach that number, state officials say, the groups must gather about 1.2 million signatures to make up for any that officials find invalid.

On Monday, using empty boxes bearing the names of California counties as props, recall originators -- initiative promoter Ted Costa and former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, a Republican from Fallbrook -- said at a Capitol rally that they were preparing to send their first batch of 100,000 signatures to county registrars of voters to be validated and counted.

They disputed suggestions that their effort is sputtering, but they also welcomed Issa’s involvement.

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Kaloogian believes Issa has committed to infuse the campaign with $1 million. Issa could not be reached, but his aides said that the congressman would make a six-figure donation, and that others would also contribute. The Issa group will use the same recall form already in circulation. The group hopes to obtain the required number of signatures by July, opening the way for a special election in the fall. Failing that, proponents could turn in their signatures in September and have the recall question placed on the presidential primary ballot in March.

If the recall measure qualifies, voters will be asked to make two decisions on a statewide ballot: They must decide whether Davis should be removed from office, and they must vote in the same election for a replacement.

The ballot for Davis’ successor would be likely to have multiple candidates who have filed papers with the secretary of state’s office. The election could have more than one candidate from each party.


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