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Consumer Reports

Cal. voters' guide now a collector's item | (KRT) It began appearing in mailboxes this week, and it's already selling as a collector's item on eBay (Category: Everything Else > Weird Stuff > Totally Bizarre.)

"Hurry - there's only about 20 million left," says one wry seller of the recall election's Official Voter Information Guide. "This one is unique. It's the only one addressed to me. Also, I sat on it so it's the only one on which I've made an `impression' (and caused a slight tear on the cover page).

Usually, the voter guide from the state is a staid and - if we may be frank - boring document that finds its way to the recycle bin. But not this one.

"Suitable for framing," quipped Republican activist Buck Johns.

Inside, more than 100 candidates for governor sound off about Armageddon, the evils of capitalism, the benefits of immigration, what's wrong with the recall, why we should legalize marijuana.

There are passionate rants from a socialist, pornographer, ex-con, libertarian, sumo wrestler, grocer, sitcom writer, former slaughterhouse worker, Satellite Payload Project Manager. It's like a booklet full of postcards from your distant relatives - including a few nutty aunts and uncles.

"A political junkies' delight," another Ebay hawker says of the guide. "Ya' can't make this stuff up!"

"It's priceless," said Ebay seller Kevin Clark of San Diego. "It's something to hang onto. It's politics as entertainment, and this is the program."

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Indeed. Consider the statement of Trek Thunder Kelly, an independent in Venice:

"Please vote for me, thus breaking the Seventh Seal and incurring Armageddon," he says. "I will legalize drugs, gambling and prostitution so they may be taxed and regulated, the funds derived would subsidize the deficit, education and environment. I believe in peaceful resolutions backed by a strong military; I don't care who you marry or have sex with."

Then there's "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt: "California is the most progressive state in the union, and I'm sure its citizens would welcome having a smut peddler who cares as their governor."

And who can argue with the credentials of Leonard Padilla, independent from Sacramento?

"As founder and president of the Lorenzo Patino Law School, I have helped countless people achieve their dreams at a fraction of what it generally costs. As a professional bounty hunter for over 28 years, I have had to make critical and unimaginable decisions while enforcing the laws of California."

Here's the stuff you need to know about the booklet: It says "STATEWIDE SPECIAL ELECTION, Tuesday, October 7, 2003," in teal print (Californians may write in "maybe not" themselves). It's 47 pages long. It cost $11 million. It's being mailed to every registered voter in California - more than 12 million households. It includes statements from the governor, and the text of two ballot initiatives, as well as the enlightening candidate statements.

Now, about those candidate statements. Maximum 250 words; $10 a word. Only folks who agreed to abide by voluntary spending limits - in this case, $10.6 million - could submit one (thanks to Proposition 34, which passed in 2002). That's why voters won't find Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom McClintock or porn star Mary Carey in there.

McClintock's libertarian leanings lead him to reject the spending limit at first, since government shouldn't be telling folks what to do. He changed his mind, decided to accept them and tried to file a statement with the Secretary of State - but was denied, said deputy campaign director John Stoos.

No regrets from Schwarzenegger. "In this state, you need to communicate your message on television, and that means spending money," said spokesman Rob Stutzman. "It was a no-brainer to trade the voters pamphlet for television advertising."

He doesn't much like Prop. 35. "I don't know why you wouldn't want voters to have all the information they could have," Stutzman said. "Why deprive voters?"

But for those who don't have $10.7 million to spend, the booklet is a dream come true, letting them speak directly to millions upon millions of California voters.

"I feel really good about it going to every single household," said Norma Hernandez, wife and campaign manager of Ralph, Democrat from Antioch (who touts himself as an "experienced tax fighter, problem solver, honest, dependable and highly qualified" candidate who "adopted puppy and kitten into our family" and uses many exclamation points).

"A lot of good, viable candidates out there have been left out of the debates and can't get time with the mainstream news media," Hernandez said. "This lets independent voters read for themselves."

If the election doesn't proceed on Oct. 7 as the booklet proclaims, it could become more valuable. Clark, the Ebay seller from San Diego, certainly hopes it does.

"I put one up 10 days ago, and it sold for $1, with free shipping," he said. "I made maybe a quarter if I'm lucky."

This is an unprecedented election, said Doug Stone, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, which produced the booklet. Placing his tongue firmly in cheek - we heard this over the phone - he said, "It could be considered a historical document 10, 20, 100 years down the road. Maybe it should be placed with the family Bible."

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© 2003, The Orange County Register Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services