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Frying pan versus fire

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
June 26, 2003


"Important principles may and must be flexible." — Abraham Lincoln

O.K. I am now ready to weigh in on the Gray Davis recall conundrum. Simply put, do we throw the bum out, and cast our chances to the political wind? Or do we stick by the Governor knowing that we could do a whole lot worse?

Before the recall is brought to a vote, Californians must decide if they are going to sign the Dump Davis petition. The magic number of valid signatures needed is 12% of those voting in the last election for governor. That's a mere 898,157, out of a population of 36 million. Shouldn't be that hard, right?

To sign, or not to sign…that is the question.

It's clear Gray Davis is not well liked. Which is rather odd considering his recent re-election. True, he was up against an ethically challenged Republican, and fought hard to marginalize Green Party candidate Peter Camejo by refusing to debate. Voter apathy and low voter turnout played a part as well. Whatever the reason, a minority of Californians gave us four more years of the Governor Gray Snake-oil Show. We have no one to blame but ourselves, so why not correct the problem?

On the other hand, there is the trouble with the recall process. The recall election ballot will have two simple questions. The first will ask if Governor Gray Davis should be recalled. Yes or no? The second question will ask voters to chose the next governor of California, if Gray Davis is removed from office. There will be no primaries or runoffs in a recall election. The campaign to replace the governor would begin in earnest the day the petition signatures are certified to be of sufficient quantity.

The special election resulting from a successful petition drive allows for any number of candidates to place their name on the recall ballot. To file, they need only 65 signatures from members of their political party, plus a fee of $3,500, which is 2 percent of the governor's $175,000 annual salary.

Already the list of potential replacements is impressive. Peter Camejo, Bill Simon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leon Panetta, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Rep. Daryl Issa, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, California Senate Pro Tem John Burton, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and Sharon Davis, the governor's wife.

Absolute chaos.

If Governor Davis is recalled in question number one, the candidate, from the list on question number two, receiving the most votes wins the honor of inheriting economic instability, a huge deficit, a water crisis, and a growing population. Considering the predicted turnout for an off year special election, most politicos are saying that as little as 20% of the vote could decide California's next governor.

Such a low threshold might be a good thing. A crowded field of Republicans and Democrats could be just what the Greens need to right the wrong of the last gubernatorial election. One drawback is celebrity. Name recognition could contribute heavily to the outcome, and the last thing California needs is another fading celluloid hero, calling the shots. Excuse me, I stand corrected, the last thing California needs is Darryl Issa calling the shots.

As a duly elected governor, there should be only one reason for removing Gray Davis from office before the end of his term- Incompetence. A greedy self-serving governor is hardly new. And we could do much worse.

Did I mention Darryl Issa?

Now that the recall issue has been raised, the prudent course of action would be to see it through. There should be numerous debates between those seeking to replace the governor. It makes no sense to throw the bum out if all we are going to do is replace him with another bum. As a matter of principle, the voting public should reject any candidates unwilling to debate.

When an activist approaches with the recall petition, voters need to ask themselves- "Has Gray Davis done anything clearly not in the interest of the state of California?" Or you could ask yourself – "Has he done something clearly bad for California." If the answer is yes, sign the petition, and hope we don't get burned in the process. If the answer is no, you haven't been paying attention. Which is O.K. too.

Californians need to be very proactive, no matter which side of the recall issue they're on. The decisions made in the next few months will be pivotal in the continued economic well-being of the golden state.

If we fail to meet this challenge, Gray Davis will be the least of our troubles.

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