California governor airs election fightback

Dogged by big screen stars and former sit com actors after his job, hard-pressed California Governor Gray Davis has taken his fight to television in a bid to keep his post.

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2003 01:08 GMT
Praying for a miracle: Gray Davis is trailing badly in opinion polls

Dogged by big screen stars and former sit com actors after his job, hard-pressed California Governor Gray Davis has taken his fight to television in a bid to keep his post.

Faced with a rare recall election next month, Davis released his first campaign commercials on Tuesday. The  advertisements are narrated by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein – a one-time foe of Davis.

Feinstein has refused to join the party in endorsing Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante as a replacement candidate should Davis lose.

"The recall is creating uncertainty and instability. It's bad for our economy, it's bad for jobs and it's bad for California," said Feinstein in one of the 30-second spots. She added that Davis was elected to a second term only last November and deserved a chance to finish the job.

"I'm going to vote against it - I hope you will too," Feinstein says.

In a second commercial, Feinstein, one of the most respected Democratic politicians in the state, noted 135 people were running in the 7 October recall election. This meant one of those candidates could win with only 15% of the vote, she said.

Rivalry set aside
Feinstein indirectly jabbed at the main Republican challenger, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom Davis has portrayed as unqualified for the job of governor and evasive on the issues. She wondered aloud who might win with popular vote so split.

"Will they be qualified? Where will they stand on the issues? What will the uncertainty do to our economy? This recall is bad for California," Feinstein said. "On the recall, just say no."

"What will the uncertainty do to our economy? This recall is bad for California"

Dianne Feinstein,
Democratic senator

During his 1992 bid for US Senate, Davis unleashed widely-criticised campaign ads comparing Feinstein to Leona Helmsley, who had been convicted of tax charges.

The two have since patched up their differences and Feinstein has been vocal in her opposition to the recall - saying she would not vote on the part of the ballot which asks Californians to pick a replacement for Davis.

Davis apes Arnie

Meanwhile, Davis borrowed a tactic from Schwarzenegger's campaign on Tuesday, convening a "bi-partisan team of experts" to advise him on California's budget and economy in the wake of a $38 billion deficit.

Davis appointed Leon Panetta, a chief-of-staff to former President Bill Clinton, to head the team and said it would work out a "new fiscal blueprint" for the state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)  with
financial advisor Warren Buffett

"For too long, our state has been at the mercy of boom-or-bust cycles in the economy," Davis said. "This problem must be fixed for our long-term financial health."

The muscle-bound Hollywood star last month brought together 20 business and academic leaders, headed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and George Shultz, for a summit to determine how to fix California's economy.

Terminator dodges critics

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger took his campaign to radio talk shows but was forced to spend much of his time defending against criticisms of his campaign - centred on his refusal to join a debate on Wednesday with other candidates.

He also ducked questions about a sexually frank 1977 magazine interview, in which the Terminator film star described his experiences with drugs and group sex.

"The other side is trying to wage a campaign to discredit me," Schwarzenegger said.

"I don't want to get into negative things. I'm trying to lead a very positive campaign talking about the future of this state and they want to read this old stuff."

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