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Sen. Clinton, Torres Stump for Davis

October 06, 2002|JEAN MERL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Gray Davis got a hand from two prominent Democrats during a high-spirited campaign rally Saturday: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party and one of the state's most enduring Latino political figures.

"This governor has done more for Latinos in California than any other governor in modern history," said Torres, emceeing the get-out-the-vote rally of party faithful outside the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

Torres, a state lawmaker for 20 years before taking the reins of the state party in 1995, made his remarks the day after the Legislature's Democratic Latino caucus declined to endorse Davis' reelection bid against Republican businessman Bill Simon Jr. Caucus members said they were angry that Davis had vetoed legislation to allow some illegal immigrants to get drivers' licenses.

Torres made no mention of the Latino legislators' slap at the governor, but he rattled off a list of Davis actions--from signing legislation to strengthen farm workers' rights to appointing the first Latino to the California Supreme Court--as evidence that Davis "has never forgotten us."

The former first lady, who spoke just ahead of Davis and drew louder cheers, said Californians need to send a signal to the Republican administration in Washington by turning out a "roaring vote" for Davis and Democrats up and down the state next month.

Acknowledging that voters are "not excited" about the candidates this election season, Clinton urged Democrats to "just imagine what would happen to California if there is not a roaring vote that comes out and reelects Gray Davis ...

"We need to come together," Clinton said. The thunderous applause that greeted her appearance was punctuated with shouts of "We love you, Hillary!" and "Hillary for president!"

Davis, grinning and asking in halting Spanish for four more years, said that "it makes a difference who holds this office."

He touted accomplishments he credited to himself and the Democrat-controlled Legislature: health insurance for 1 million children of the working poor, rising test scores in California schools, improvements in air and water quality, a lower crime rate.

And he reiterated a familiar theme--that Simon is out of step with mainstream Californians.

"My opponent is a true-blue think tank conservative.... He is out there," Davis said emphatically. He rattled off a list of issues that he and Simon disagree on: gun control, stem cell research, abortion rights and employer-paid family leave, among others.

"This is as clear a contest as you can have," Davis said.

The rally drew enthusiastic partisans who waved red and black Davis placards and wore yellow "Every Vote Counts" stickers. Before the speakers joined Democratic candidates and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe on the outdoor stage, some in the crowd traded catcalls with a small group of protesters who walked by carrying hand-lettered "Dump Davis" signs.

A man in a star-spangled baseball cap paraded briefly along the edge of the gathering. He carried a sign that read, "Gray Davis Is a Prostitute," an apparent reference to the governor's prodigious fund-raising from interest groups.

Comedian Elayne Boosler warmed up the crowd with a joke about Florida voting and took a swipe at those who stay home from the polls because they don't like any of the candidates.

"Don't like? It's not dating," she said. "It's the future of the world."

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