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Davis for Governor

October 25, 1998

California enters the 21st century as a place of both enormous opportunity and daunting challenge. Our state needs a leader who will strive to extend that opportunity to all its citizens, and to undertake a renaissance of an aging and neglected structure of public services and facilities, with schools the No. 1 priority.

The choice for governor on Nov. 3 is between two experienced state officeholders, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis and Republican Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren; each would lead the state during the next four years in his own distinctive style.

The Times today endorses Gray Davis for the job.

Davis is not a charismatic politician--even he jokes about his bland demeanor--but he is a moderate, temperate leader who has the ability to forge solutions to major state problems by bringing competing factions together and building consensus. California is weary after eight years of governance by confrontation, division and warfare with the Legislature, and of keeping score of political wins and losses. That must change.

Lungren is a passionate and articulate advocate of his conservative principles. But his policies would be likely to keep California mired in the narrow path it has followed during recent years as public education disintegrated, physical facilities aged and the environment eroded. California used to have the best of just about everything--schools, parks, highways, water systems and more. Today we rank at or near the bottom of the 50 states in far too many categories. Gray Davis offers the best hope of stirring a new era of excellence and effectiveness in California's public sector.

Lungren has ignored the public will with his half-hearted enforcement of the state's assault weapon ban and his refusal to support legislation to make the law stronger and more effective. And he must share blame for the state's remarkable reluctance to move quickly and firmly against corrections officials who tolerated repeated unnecessary shooting deaths of state prison inmates. These are faults that blot his boasts of being tough on crime.

Davis is not without flaws. He is cautious to a fault as a coalition builder, proposing that virtually every major issue be solved by getting interested parties to sit down at the negotiating table. Consensus-building is important, but it often requires strong leadership to bring the process to a conclusion. Davis must be willing to exert that leadership when necessary. And he should project a stronger vision of the state's long-range needs and be willing to try new ideas and creative solutions.

There also is a concern that Davis is too close to teacher and public employee unions and trial lawyer groups that are the major source for his campaign fund-raising. As governor, Davis must put the interests of all Californians ahead of these groups, especially in seeking further change in the public schools.

Over 24 years, Davis has served as a governor's chief of staff, assemblyman, state controller and lieutenant governor. He knows the nuts and bolts--and hidden levers and pitfalls--of state government. The election of Gray Davis offers California the best hope for forging a return to excellence in the Golden State for all its residents.

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