With the deadline to approve California’s budget only weeks away, a Republican lawmaker involved in talks over how to close the state’s shortfall has donated $10,000 to the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis.
Assemblyman John Campbell of Irvine, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, signed a letter urging voters to sign recall petitions, and gave $10,000 to the recall campaign, according to a filing made public Thursday. State Sen. Rico Oller (R-San Andreas) gave $7,200, pushing the total amount raised so far to almost $600,000.
They became the first state legislators to donate to the committee called Rescue California, although a few other GOP lawmakers have voiced support for the recall effort being financed primarily by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).
Campbell’s donation caught the attention of Davis partisans, given the assemblyman’s role as one of the lower house’s Republican leaders on budget issues. His donation, Democrats said, underscores that recall politics are becoming entwined with negotiations over the spending plan and competing proposals on how to close the $38-billion budget gap.
“It brings into question his seriousness about passing his budget,” said Steve Maviglio, Davis’ press secretary. “It appears he is more interested in embarrassing the governor than doing his job.”
Republican legislators initially were hesitant to become involved in the recall effort.
Assembly GOP leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks told reporters in February that the recall was not a “good idea,” although he had said that he would vote to recall the Democratic governor if the measure went before voters.
But as the recall has gathered more GOP support, some Republican leaders who had doubted the wisdom of the effort have toned down their comments.
“We still have to do our jobs,” Campbell said in an interview Thursday. “There are always political things going on. They go on in the background. I don’t see how the budget plays into the recall.”
In his letter to voters, Campbell identified himself as vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He urged voters to sign the petition to place the recall on the statewide ballot, blaming Davis for causing the deficit by “overspending and then lying about it.”
The letter, which also solicited campaign donations for the recall, criticized Davis for proposing an array of tax increases to close the state budget shortfall.
Although state spending increased during Davis’ tenure, budgets in each of his first four years received votes from Republican legislators. By law, budgets must be approved by two-thirds of the legislators in the 80-seat Assembly and 40-seat Senate.
Davis political spokesman Roger Salazar charged that Campbell’s donation “shows that Republicans are now going to try to leverage the budget for their own political motivations.”
“Most Californians will find that distasteful,” Salazar said. “Republicans are uninterested in finding a solution and only want to prolong this to gain political advantage. They’re playing politics with the budget, and that affects peoples’ lives.”
Republican consultant Dave Gilliard, who is managing the Rescue California campaign, dismissed the notion that Campbell’s involvement in the recall will make solving the budget problem more difficult.
“Let me get this straight: The budget hasn’t been partisan in the past?” Gilliard said.
“John Campbell,” Gilliard said, “is probably a preeminent witness to Gov. Davis’ mismanagement of the state budget. As a Republican leader, he is entitled to participate and that is what he is doing.”
By law, recall backers must turn in nearly 900,000 valid signatures of registered voters to place the recall on the ballot.
Voters would be asked whether they think Davis, a Democrat, should be recalled. They also would vote for a replacement, with the top vote-getter taking office if voters approved the recall measure.
Issa has provided the bulk of the money to finance the petition drive, and is expected to place his name on the ballot as a candidate to succeed the governor should the recall pass.