Huffington Bows Out of Race, Vows to Fight Recall
Arianna Huffington withdrew Tuesday from the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis, saying she was worried about the prospect of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.
“I have a sense of foreboding about what could happen to the state” if Schwarzenegger is elected, Huffington said in an interview. She said she planned to spend the remaining days before Tuesday’s election campaigning against the recall and warning that Schwarzenegger is not the outsider he purports to be.
Amid a growing perception that the race has become a contest between Davis and Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante mounted an aggressive defense of his campaign, dismissing suggestions that he was failing to win over voters and arguing that he will eventually triumph.
“People are starting to see that they’re not going to make a decision on some celebrity frenzy,” an unusually feisty Bustamante told reporters during a campaign stop at a downtown produce market.
“I don’t have a campaign of ‘trust me’ politics,” he added, referring to a phrase Schwarzenegger often uses. “I have a campaign of ideas.”
Davis, for his part, kept hammering at Schwarzenegger during a visit to the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor on Tuesday morning. The governor repeated a challenge to Schwarzenegger for a public debate.
“Life and government does not always go according to a script,” said Davis, who was accompanied by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. “A governor needs to think on his feet, and I think you have somebody here who can think on his feet and lead this state forward.”
Davis and other Democrats also took a swipe at Schwarzenegger for his suggestion Monday that he might dismantle the state’s environmental protection agency.
“We do not want to turn over our environment to a federal government that will not defend it with the passion and the tenacity that the California Environmental Protection Agency will,” Davis said.
Schwarzenegger brushed aside the idea of a debate with Davis, saying the governor is not directly running against an opponent on the ballot.
“It’s between him and the people,” he told San Francisco radio host Ronn Owens. “My debate is every day.... I don’t have to debate with him.”
Schwarzenegger’s main campaign event of the day -- an early evening news conference in San Francisco -- was interrupted by the entrance of comedian Dana Carvey, who attended at the invitation of the actor’s campaign.
Carvey, who was dwarfed by the bodybuilder candidate, is known for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch from the 1980s in which he played Hans, part of a bodybuilding team of Hans and Franz, who worshipped Schwarzenegger.
As Schwarzenegger lambasted Davis for recent criticisms that the actor was inexperienced, Carvey bounced into a Fairmont Hotel room jammed with press and declared in an Austrian accent to the audible groans of reporters: “He’s 10% body fat, but 40% in the polls.”
Carvey’s appearance effectively ended Schwarzenegger’s first question-and-answer session in five days.
Schwarzenegger’s Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock, who lagged in third place in the Times poll, continued castigating GOP officials for endorsing the actor.
“We have a self-fulfilling prophecy occurring,” McClintock said during a news conference in Burbank, where he picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Senate candidate and conservative commentator Bruce Herschensohn.
“If everyone who believes I’m the best candidate actually votes for me, I’ll win,” McClintock added. “Don’t vote somebody else’s political calculations. Vote your own conscience.”
Bustamante sought to promote his own candidacy, describing the election as a “fundamental choice” between an experienced leader and a novice who has said, “Trust me, I’m going to fix it once I get in there.”
“I know you know this is a serious thing, so listen carefully to what people are saying,” he said, mopping his brow as he stood on the sawdust-strewn floor of the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
“Don’t take a position, don’t take a concept; make ‘em give you a full plan on how to fix real things in California, and if you do that, I think I will be the next governor of this state,” he said.
In recent days, Democrats have expressed frustration with the lieutenant governor’s campaign, saying he has failed to shake off questions about his fund-raising practices and present a strong alternative to Schwarzenegger’s candidacy. Davis, who said previously that he would decide whether to endorse Bustamante in the final week before the election, has remained tight-lipped on that subject.
On Tuesday, the lieutenant governor was peppered with questions about whether he is under pressure to drop out from fellow Democrats who feel that his presence on the ballot could actually hinder the governor’s effort to hold on to his job.
Bustamante said no one has asked him to get out of the race and insisted that his candidacy is the party’s best hope of keeping the office in Democratic hands.
“We’re energizing a whole group of people to come to the polls,” he said. “I believe what I’m doing is turning people around, that I’m bringing them to the point where they understand that they may not like the governor, but them not liking the governor is not a good enough reason to vote for the recall.”
The lieutenant governor’s stop at the market -- the same place Davis campaigned at Monday -- was added to his schedule late Tuesday morning after his campaign fielded questions about why Bustamante has made relatively few campaign appearances. While Davis and Schwarzenegger spent Monday on the stump, Bustamante was out of public view.
Bustamante strategist Richie Ross said the lieutenant governor spent Monday and most of Tuesday calling donors and attending fund-raisers in an attempt to raise enough money to stay on the airwaves for the duration of the election.
By Tuesday afternoon, he had raised about $900,000, Ross said, enough to keep his ads on TV.
“We’re scrambling, but we’re going to make it,” he said.
Meanwhile, California Green Party spokesman Ross Mirkarimi said he did not expect party candidate Peter Camejo to reconsider staying in the race.
But he said the party did not want to play a spoiler role in this election.
“It is not our goal to make the difference between the worst and the least-worst of the candidates. We don’t relish that position,” Mirkarimi said. “We believe that it would be better for California if someone other than a Republican were in the statehouse.”
Huffington said she was planning to spend the remainder of her campaign mounting an anti-recall effort. She said she has not yet decided whether she will endorse a replacement candidate on the ballot, adding that she hoped to urge women and independents to vote against the recall.
Huffington said she planned to tell disaffected voters: “I understand why you want a change and why you may be tempted to vote for Schwarzenegger because you see him as an outsider. But wake up and look at the reality of who Schwarzenegger is.”
The author, who repeatedly clashed with Schwarzenegger during last week’s debate among the leading replacement candidates, said she believes he would be a tool of corporate interests and the Republican right wing.
“I believe there has to be a wake-up call,” she said.
Times staff writers Gregg Jones and Daryl Kelley contributed to this report.
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