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Schwarzenegger, Key Democrat Join Race to Replace Davis

They joined an ever-increasing field of potential candidates seeking to unseat embattled incumbent Governor Gray Davis in an October 7 recall election.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, announced his intention to run during an appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show With Jay Leno, later telling reporters he would “clean house” in the state capital.

“The man who has failed the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He has failed them terribly,” Schwarzenegger said. “This is why I’m going to run for governor.”

Schwarzenegger’s announcement came as a surprise to most political observers.

Last week, a Schwarzenegger spokesman said the Austrian-born actor — famous for his roles in adventure movies like the Terminator films — would likely not enter the race.

Strategists speculated that Schwarzenegger might not run because his wife Maria Shriver, a broadcast journalist, is the niece of Democratic icons John and Robert Kennedy and her father served in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Both Shriver and Schwarzenegger were long-time supporters of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who is also reportedly weighing a run for the state’s top spot.

Schwarzenegger told reporters Wednesday night that Shriver told him she would support his decision to run.

“I felt in the end it was my duty to jump into the race,” he told reporters after his appearance on the Tonight Show. “People are sick and tired of politicians.”

Bustamante, a Democrat, released a statement late Wednesday saying he would pick up the necessary paperwork Thursday to file as a candidate.

Bustamante said earlier that he did not support the recall effort. Analysts said his candidacy is a substantial split in the Democratic Party, which had closed ranks around Davis; many senior party members decided not to run on the recall ballot, deciding instead to fight for Davis to keep his job.

Activist and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington also joined the campaign Wednesday, saying she would appear on the ballot as an independent.

Huffington, a former Republican, has recently taken up the cause of promoting fuel-efficient cars.

Schwarzenegger, Bustamante, and Huffington are the latest additions to a long list of possible candidates that include political newcomers, former government officials and publicity-seekers.

Under California law a citizen of the state can have their name added to the ballot by presenting a nominating petition signed by 65 fellow Californians and $3,500 to his or her county election office. Candidates may also present a 10,000-signature petition in lieu of the $3,500 filing fee.

Aug. 9 is the deadline for potential candidates to submit filing papers to county election offices.

As of Thursday morning, the Web site of the California Secretary of State reported that it had received notice from county election officials that 356 people have picked up the necessary paperwork to become a candidate.

Some known figures such as pornography mogul Larry Flynt, former child actor Gary Coleman, and the comedian known as Gallagher are reportedly among those who have retrieved candidacy papers.

Once potential candidates return paperwork to county election offices, it is then forwarded to the secretary of state’s office, where it is certified. Only candidates whose papers have been certified will appear on the ballot. No candidate’s papers have yet been certified.

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