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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

At the Mall, Nary a Davis Backer to Be Found

Informal sampling in a city where Democrats hold a slight edge turns up support only for ousting the governor.

August 08, 2003|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

To hold onto his office, Gov. Gray Davis should be able to count on at least some votes from the weekday afternoon shoppers at the Stonewood Center mall in Downey. Slightly more than half of all voters are registered Democrats in this southeast Los Angeles County suburb.

But on Thursday afternoon, a four-hour visit to the mall found no one speaking up for the beleaguered Democratic governor.

Thirty people were interviewed. College students, retired folks, painters, mothers with small children, church leaders, students of constitutional law and two unemployed college graduates -- all said they would vote to recall the governor.

Even Democrats who had supported him in previous elections said they had turned their backs on him.

"I voted for Davis last time," said Juan Chavez, 48, a registered Democrat who was chatting about the recall in Spanish with another shopper, Arnulfo Carrillo, 43. He said he had rallied 2,500 people at his Foursquare church in Echo Park to vote for Davis last November. "Now I don't want to do that," he said.

Michael Templeton, who just turned 18 and works at Disneyland, used to talk up Davis. But not after the state cut education funds, said the recent graduate of Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs. "It got so bad at my school there's not enough extra money to get pencils."

Joann Lawrence, 59, of Downey said she recently changed her party status from Republican to Democrat but would still vote against Davis. "I signed the petition to get him out," she said. "He's not giving any money to schools. I have four grandchildren at three different schools, and they're not doing anything to repair the schools."

The antipathy to Davis is strong -- even though few could name a suitable replacement.

"I don't know," said Valerie Ward, 37, of Whittier, who was eating in the food court with her husband, daughter and a friend.

"It doesn't matter," she added, because the replacement will "only have a couple of years, and there are all those problems to try to get straightened."

"They've got a bunch of weirdos up to replace him," said Steve Clark, 18, of Norwalk, who wants to recall Davis. "I mean, there's Gary Coleman. We need a real political figure who has an education behind them."

Two-thirds of those interviewed considered movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger a serious candidate. His name sparked a smile from the least politically engaged shopper, an unemployed UCLA graduate named Mike Choi.

Choi, 24, of Rowland Heights, said he doesn't follow politics but watched Schwarzenegger's announcement of his candidacy on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Wednesday night.

"He's awesome," said Choi, who was eating noodles. Choi still doesn't plan to vote but said he would follow the election for "entertainment value."

His friend Allen Kim, 25, also an unemployed recent UCLA graduate, admires the multimillionaire actor's financial independence. "I can't see him trying to finagle a $2-million kickback. What's $2 million to him?"

Sean Michele, 34, a Los Angeles painter, said, "I would vote for me." Even over Davis? He made a cutting motion across his throat at the mention of the governor's name.

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