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Some California Democrats — worried that Davis might not win the recall vote in California — have decided to break rank with Governor Gray Davis. A few big names are now contemplating joining the over 250 people vying for a shot at governing the world’s sixth largest economy. But critics from both sides of the aisle are up in arms about the recall, and simply want it called off, arguing that California’s taxpayers are risking a huge unecessary financial burden that could plunge the already-struggling Golden State further into chaos.

California’s recall is slated to take place on October 7. But California’s Governor, Gray Davis has recently filed suit with the California Supreme Court asking not only for his name to appear on the ballot as a possible replacement (for himself) but to delay the vote until the presidential primaries on March 2.

The recall gives California voters a chance to oust statewide elected officials from office should voters find their officials lacking — no specific wrongdoing needs to be proven in order to instigate a recall. California which has much more lax recall rules then most other states, it only requires 12% of the number of votes in the previous gubernatorial election to pass the recall. But the ease with which the California recall campaign was spurred into action has stunned many political experts, write the editors of Santa Maria Times:

“The ease with which the recall campaign came together caught many political observers by surprise. Nearly 900,000 valid signatures on recall petitions and $1.5 million out of the pocket of GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, and – Presto! -you have a recall of the state’s top elected official.

Through all of this political maneuvering there seems to have been little thought given to the actual outcome of such an election, and what it will mean if Davis is, indeed, recalled and someone else becomes governor with 12 or 15 percent of the vote.”

For now, what all this means for voters in the Golden State is that anybody with $3,500 and 65 signatures can run for governor. There’s no primary and no run-off. And anyone who wins the plurality of the vote — not a majority, just the most votes out of all the candidates — could be California’s next governor. CNS News reports:

“The secretary of state’s office announced late last week that 258 Californians had taken out nomination papers to challenge Davis. The recall ballot will consist of two questions: first, whether Davis should be recalled; and second, who should replace him if he is recalled. A candidate may win the second question with only a plurality, raising the possibility that California’s next governor may be elected with less than a quarter of the votes.

‘The frightening thing about this procedure, which is very poorly designed, is that anything can happen,” said [Political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia]. ‘Somebody could get elected with only 10 percent of the vote, and that’s insane — even for California!'”

The recall, although it now seems like little more than a political circus, could turn into a very real nightmare. As the New York Times’ John M. Broder notes, many counties are not prepared to deal with the voting process:

“Under state election law, the qualified candidates will appear on the ballot in random order, with the order rotating in the state’s 80 Assembly districts. Not every county will be able to accommodate the growing list of candidates. Los Angeles County, for example, can handle 225 names on its punch-card ballots.

State and county officials have less than 10 weeks to prepare for the election, which will cost as much as $67 million, according to the latest estimate from the California secretary of state.”

So not only does the recall have the potential to create voting pandemonium, it’s could also stick California taxpayers with a huge bill. Critics are decrying the $67 million estimate, a figure that seems an astronomical waste given California’s deficit of $38.2 billion. Although funding from private investors like Darrell Issa covered the costs of collecting the signatures for the recall petition, the other costs fall squarely on the backs of the California taxpayers, write the San Francisco Chronicle’s Robert Salladay and Carla Marinucci:

“The unprecedented recall will cost taxpayers an estimated $67 million to open polling places, hire staff and print 15 million informational brochures for voters, new figures from Secretary of State Kevin Shelley show. That is double the original estimate.”

But some democrats, though they oppose the recall, are more worried about what could happen if a Republican or some other wildcard lands in office. Last week, some prominent Democrats broke from the party and publicly voiced their support for the option of running a viable Democratic candidate besides Davis. Meanwhile, others argue that breaking from a united position behind Davis could spell political ruin for California’s Democrats, writes the Associated Press:

“‘The strategy of defeating the recall is a very good strategy. I want to make sure it’s working before the time is over that somebody (else) can run,’ [Senator Barbara Boxer] said.

If polls show Davis can’t win, Boxer said, she thinks there are plenty of Democrats who would make strong candidates.

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who served 14 years as speaker of the California Assembly, disagreed, saying sticking with Davis as the sole candidate is the party’s best strategy.

‘In my opinion, no Democrat can successfully negotiate those waters,’ Brown said Monday.

‘It is my sense that not everybody, but a lot of the Democratic leadership, does think that there needs to be a strong Democratic choice on question two, and that the search is actively underway,’ Democratic strategist Darry Sragow said.”

The Associated Press further writes that state Senate Democrats met behind closed doors yesterday to discuss whether they will continue their unilateral support of Davis.


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