TOPICS > Politics

California Governor Faces Historic Recall Election

BY Admin  July 24, 2003 at 12:06 PM EST

Shelley said the state’s 58 counties had reported 1.3 million valid petition signatures, well over the 897,158 required for a recall vote.

The petition triggers a 1911 law that will force a special recall election. Under the law, voters will go to the polls to vote yes or no on keeping Davis as governor.

“This is the first statewide special election in California’s history. The challenges are profound,” Shelley said at a news conference. “This could very well be one of the most important ballots our citizens ever cast.”

Davis said he was disappointed at the news, but ready to fight.

“Am I delighted that I have a recall? No. Is it a lot of fun? No,” Davis told a news conference in San Francisco. “Do I get much free time these days? No. But am I going to run away from it? Absolutely not.”

“I am going to fight like a Bengal tiger,” Davis said, according to Reuters.

Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante is now required by law to set a date for the election in 60 to 80 days. It is still unclear whether candidates to replace Davis will appear on the same ballot as the recall question.

Bustamante said Wednesday that he may not have the authority to set an election to choose a replacement candidate.

“The authority I have is to set the date, but not the other,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t think I have any other authority.”

A Bustamante spokesman said the lieutenant governor would ask the state Commission on Governorship and the state Supreme Court for guidance.

The secretary of state’s office has contended that the law requires replacement candidates to appear on the same ballot.

“We believe that it must include the second question, which is the option for other candidates. I’ve shared with Mr. Bustamante our point,” Shelley said.

The state recall law, according to the AP, says that in the case of a recall the lieutenant governor will set a date for the recall question to be decided and the date for an election to replace the governor “if appropriate.”

Under state law Bustamante would succeed Davis as governor if the office becomes vacant for any reason, but it is still unclear whether Bustamante could or would succeed Davis before a possible election to choose a new governor.

Davis, whose popularity dwindled as California faced energy and budget crises, was elected to a second term in November of 2002. Davis had at first ignored and then fought the Republican-led recall campaign but said Tuesday that he will embrace a new election.

“If the people want me to present my credentials again, I do not fear them,” Davis said of the recall effort.

On Wednesday, Davis criticized the recall effort as a “hostile takeover by the right.”

“Remember, there’s a lot more people willing to vote against the recall than there are who think I’m doing a good job,” Davis told the Associated Press. “If you look at those voters, they say, ‘It’s not fair to blame this on the governor.’ It’s that sense of fairness that I think will carry the day.”

The only official candidate for the governor’s job, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, said Tuesday: “I expect the governor to be recalled by a substantial margin. The only thing that’s in doubt is who will replace him.”