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Davis, Simon Agree to Debate Oct. 7

Politics: The face-off is the first to be scheduled, although both camps say others are possible. The debate will be televised in L.A., San Diego and perhaps elsewhere.

September 10, 2002|MATEA GOLD and MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SANTA BARBARA — Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and his Republican challenger Bill Simon Jr. agreed Monday to debate Oct. 7, according to spokesmen for each campaign.

The debate, sponsored by The Times, is the only one that both candidates have agreed to attend. But their spokesmen said they might schedule more.

In 1998, Davis and his Republican opponent Dan Lungren held four debates.

The Times debate in Los Angeles is to be televised live at noon on KTLA in Los Angeles and KSWB in San Diego. Both stations are owned by Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times. Details for broadcast in other parts of the state remain under discussion.

California Public Radio stations also will carry the debate.

The debate will not include any minor-party candidates. For any further debates, Simon is pushing to include the Green Party candidate, Peter Camejo. But Davis has refused, saying that Simon singled out the minor party most likely to siphon votes from the Democratic nominee.

The other gubernatorial candidates on the ballot are Reinhold Gulke of the American Independent Party; Gary David Copeland, Libertarian Party; and Iris Adam, Natural Law Party.

Campaigning in San Francisco and Santa Barbara on Monday, Simon dismissed speculation he might drop out of the race after a series of campaign missteps and setbacks.

"I'm going to let the voters decide on Nov. 5," he told reporters in San Francisco. "I'm not concerned with what people say about the campaign.... If we run a good, strong campaign between now and Nov. 5, we're going to win."

Simon and his advisors hope to get a boost this week from the judge handling a fraud case that has hurt his campaign. A jury found in July that the candidate's investment firm, William E. Simon & Sons, had defrauded a partner.

At a hearing this morning in Los Angeles, lawyers for the firm asked the judge to set aside the $78-million verdict against William E. Simon & Sons. The judge could rule as soon as today.

On Monday, Simon tried to shift the campaign's focus to education. In a speech to several hundred members of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, he said Davis had failed to improve the performance of failing schools.

"Everyone knows a third of our schools are failing," he said. "We can't stand for that."

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar disputed Simon's charge, saying that the governor had improved schools through tough accountability measures, more teacher training and smaller classes.

"The fact is, after a generation of neglect, California schools are moving in the right direction," Salazar said. "Under the Davis administration, school performance has improved four years in a row."

But Simon said more is needed. He proposed a plan that would give troubled schools two years to improve. If no progress was made, the principal would be fired and a state "rescue team" would take over.

"Those who are not adequately trained, those that are not adequately leading our schools, need to be directed to a new line of work," Simon said.

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