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Feinstein Stays Off Ballot Without Backing Any Democrat

August 10, 2003|Carla Hall | Times Staff Writer

ASPEN, Colo. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein stood firm Saturday on her decision not to enter the gubernatorial election, again urging Californians to vote against the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and declining for now to endorse any of the candidates to replace him.

Although some political analysts had speculated that Saturday would be a day of agonizing pressure for Feinstein, the phone calls to her ranch here, imploring her to reconsider and run, were subsiding.

"It's been quiet today," said her husband, Richard Blum. "People understand she is where she is."

At one point Saturday afternoon, she even took time for a nap.

Feinstein, who has been in Aspen for a week, devoting much of that time to an Aspen Strategy Group workshop on the Middle East, emphasized the importance of defeating the recall rather than handicapping the field of provisional candidates.

She repeated her position that Californians vote against the recall but stopped short of advising voters on how to treat the second part of the ballot, listing candidates to replace Davis.

"On the second part, she's going to watch and see how things develop," said her chief of staff, Mark Kadish.

All along, Feinstein has advised Democrats not to enter the race, and she continued Saturday to take a dim view of those who have. "It's very hypocritical to say, 'Vote no on [the] recall, but vote for me,' " she said.

Because so many people took out papers to run, she said, Democrats needed to wait until after Saturday's 5 p.m. filing deadline to devise an election strategy.

The Democrats reportedly have been quarreling among themselves over whether to support one of the Democrats who have placed their names in contention.

"There's nobody in the race who can carry a majority," said Feinstein.

"My position has been from the beginning this recall is a bad precedent and it will become bigger than California," she said. "You're removing someone from office because you don't like them."

Feinstein said she believes the key to defeating the recall will be collecting absentee ballots, as she did in overcoming a recall vote in 1983 as mayor of San Francisco.

"What the party can do is mount an absentee ballot campaign," said Feinstein. "Once you get those signatures in, it's money in the bank."

The California Democratic Party was thrown into a tailspin Wednesday when Feinstein announced she would not run and hours later, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would.

Feinstein has avoided gauging the movie star's impact on the recall race. Instead, she has lambasted him as a poor choice with no experience that would qualify him to be governor. "The calls I get are from people appalled that he's running," she said Saturday.

But since the actor's entrance into the race, Democrats have implored Feinstein, considered the state's most popular Democrat, to change her mind and run.

Feinstein spoke briefly Friday night with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who wanted the fax number at the senator's ranch. "She was going to send a poll, but I haven't gotten it yet," Feinstein said Saturday morning, assuming it would be part of another effort to get her to enter the race.

Feinstein and Blum have a 38-acre spread here called Bear Paw Ranch, which sits on a high mesa overlooking Woody Creek.

While her husband went for a run, she spent Saturday morning in her home office with Kadish, who flew into Aspen on Friday to prepare for the senator's appearance on "Meet the Press" this morning. She also was scheduled to attend a political fund-raiser Saturday afternoon, and she and Blum planned to attend an 85th birthday party for businessman Sidney Harman, who is married to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice).Feinstein said she was weary of all the attention she had received this week and preferred to talk about what Davis must do to beat this recall.

"The main thing is that he show himself as a problem-solving, transparent, hard-working Democrat," she said.

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