Jewish World Review June 23, 2003 / 23 Sivan, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Why California Dems are running scared


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A political earthquake is shaking the ground in California. Its tremors could extend across the nation, influencing next year's presidential election, and changing the national debate about government spending. Backers of a campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis say they have collected 800,000 of the 897,158 signatures on petitions required to force a recall election.

If they collect the requisite number of valid signatures by July 18, California law requires there be a recall election in October or November. (Davis' opponents have until September to gather the signatures, but that would put off a recall election to next January or February.) If there is a recall election, the odds are Davis will lose it. A recent poll indicated that 51 percent of Californians support the recall effort, a number that is likely to grow if it actually qualifies for the ballot.

Davis is the nation's most unpopular governor. Three recent opinion polls put his approval rating at below 30 percent. Californians think Davis misled them both about the extent of California's fiscal crisis, and about how he intends to deal with it.

California has a $38 billion budget deficit. Davis plans to solve it by borrowing as much money as he can; by raising existing taxes a lot; by creating new taxes, and by expanding the authority of local governments to raise their own taxes. This has won him the staunch support of public employee unions, because any other governor - even if he or she is a Democrat - is likely to look more seriously at the option of cutting government spending.

California is arguably the most Democratic state in the nation. Gore beat Bush here, 54 percent to 42 percent. So California's next governor ought to be a Democrat. Should Sen. Diane Feinstein (approval rating 62 percent) choose to run, she would be a strong favorite.

But Feinstein and other Democratic heavyweights have a problem. A recall election is two elections in one. Voters vote first on whether to recall Davis. Then they vote on his replacement. The victor is whoever gets the most votes. Depending on how many candidates there are - and who they are - the next governor of California could be elected with less than a quarter of the popular vote.

The dilemma for Democrats is that they cannot run without undercutting Davis. State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Attorney General Bill Lockyer have said they won't run. Feinstein adviser Bill Carrick said he did not think she would run.

Republicans are under no such constraints. Rep. Darrell Issa, whose contributions have fueled the recall campaign, is certain to run. Bill Simon, who despite running the most feckless campaign in modern political history, came within five points of beating Davis last fall, is another likely candidate. But the favorite - should Feinstein chose not to run - is actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Terminator has name identification it would take other candidates millions of dollars to buy. He has no record for the famous Davis attack machine to pick apart. Since Californians are disgusted with the entire political establishment, being an outsider is an advantage. As a moderate on social issues (he supports gay rights and abortion in most circumstances), Schwarzenegger can focus on fiscal mismanagement without making liberal Calfornians' teeth grind. And the last actor to run for governor of California (Ronald Reagan) did rather well.

It isn't only California Democrats who lose if there is a recall election. It would be the Political Event of the fall, sucking such oxygen from the Democratic presidential contenders as remains after Hillary's book tour.

Davis will raise a ton of money to fight for his job. Other Democratic contenders will be soliciting funds, too, emptying wallets that might otherwise open for those seeking to oust Bush.

And if Schwarzenegger wins, his inauguration would take place about the time the Democratic presidential primaries begin, diverting attention from them.

A Republican governor. Empty Democratic campaign treasuries. A diminished Democratic presidential field. Lockyer called the recall effort "a profound threat to democracy." That's hyperbole.

But the recall could be a profound threat to Democrats.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

06/17/03: Rumsfeld's surprise
06/11/03: Credibility is lying in order to accuse your opponents?
06/04/03: Who said it's over?
06/04/03: Trans-Jordanians — aka ‘Palestinians’ — must take cues from Iraqis
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05/23/03: DISPATCHES FROM THE DESERT: Hard-won capture lost in a mix-up over papers
05/21/03: In danger of losing the peace?
05/19/03: Dispatches from the Desert: The truth tellers
05/14/03: They won the battle, but lost the morale
05/12/03: Dispatches from the Desert: Cavalry scout's skills include coffee-making
05/08/03: Dispatches from the Desert: Ammo boxes in trucks get attention of soldiers
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04/25/03: A war we could lose
04/21/03: The "Collaborators' News Network"
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04/02/03: The difference between hopes and expectations
03/31/03: Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
03/24/03: European media and former 'human shields' are beginning to get it
03/20/03: Was getting the UN involved worth it?
03/18/03: South Koreans no longer behaving as if they were the French of Northeast Asia --- why?
03/11/03: Ultimatum's moment of truth
03/11/03: Thank you, Turkey, we needed that
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03/04/03: Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen
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02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
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02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
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02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
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01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
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01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
01/02/03: Ostriches
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
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12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
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11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
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11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
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09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
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09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
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08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
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08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
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07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
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06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
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04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
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04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
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04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
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04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
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03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
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02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
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© 2002, Jack Kelly