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Estimate of Recall Now $66 Million

The large number of candidates and short notice ensure errors, the secretary of state says.

August 12, 2003|Dan Morain, Joel Rubin and Megan Garvey | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — California's top election official said Monday that the recall election is expected to cost about $66 million -- the high end of previous estimates -- and warned that there will be missteps along the way to a final certification of the outcome, which may be as late as Nov. 15.

"Let me be candid: There are going to be problems," said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. "You play with the cards you're dealt."

On Monday, with 56 days to go before the vote, there were these developments:

* More Democratic leaders moved toward a two-part strategy, urging a "no" vote on the recall ballot while supporting Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as the best backup candidate. Davis and his wife, Sharon, made campaign appearances emphasizing his work on behalf of Californians.

* Prominent Republicans in the race took shots at one another in campaign appearances and interviews and questioned where fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger stands on issues facing the state. Schwarzenegger appeared in New York City at an event touting after-school programs, refusing to answer reporters' questions about his run for the governorship.

* Shelley conducted a lottery in Sacramento to determine the order in which candidates' names will appear on the ballot. Names beginning with R will top the ballot in the 1st Assembly District, and ballot order will rotate through the alphabet in other districts.

As of Monday, 96 candidates had qualified to appear on the ballot in the state's first recall vote on a sitting governor, only the second such election nationwide in a century. Shelley's office was still reviewing 95 additional names, but country registrars say that they believe the secretary of state's list includes several invalid names and that the final count will end up closer to 150 than 200.

Voters will be asked to make two decisions Oct. 7. First they will vote up or down on whether Davis should keep his job as governor. Then they will have the option of choosing who should replace Davis if the recall effort succeeds. If Davis fails to get the support of more than 50% of voters on the first question, whoever gets the largest number of votes on the second part of the ballot will become governor.

Of the estimated $66-million cost of the recall election, about $11 million will come from the state and the rest from county governments. County election officials said Monday that the recall vote will require them to spend money that had been set aside for the presidential primary in March. That means there is money on hand to deal with the recall costs, but county officials said they were worried about financial repercussions.

"It's like we're spending next month's rent or grocery bill," said Michael Petrucello, assistant registrar-recorder clerk for Los Angeles County, where recall election costs are expected to reach $13.3 million. "We're spending money we don't have. We really are."

Costs have escalated because of the large number of candidates qualified for the ballot, officials said. Ventura County officials, for example, revised their estimate of the recall costs from $800,000 to $1 million after the increase in the number of candidates this weekend.

One big-cost item is first-class postage to ensure that ballot pamphlets arrive in 11 million California households on time. Normally, ballot pamphlets are mailed at a lower postal rate that allows slower delivery.

The size of the pamphlet also will add to the bill. Each candidate will be entitled to make a 250-word statement. With three statements per page, the pamphlet could exceed 50 pages.

As details of running the special election were sorted out, campaigning continued.

Davis posed before dozens of cameras at an appearance Monday morning at the Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. He called Bustamante "a good and decent person." He added that he took Bustamante "at his word" that the lieutenant governor opposes the recall election, despite having chosen to run.

As he has before, Davis called the recall effort an insult to California voters.

"I may be old-fashioned," he said, "but I come from the school where, once an election has passed, and someone is chosen to be the leader, everyone gets behind that leader and does the people's business for the next four years."

In Sacramento, Bustamante released copies of his income tax returns for 1998 through 2002, calling on other candidates to do the same. (Schwarzenegger released two years of income tax filings on Sunday.)

Over those years, Bustamante and his wife reported income that ranged from $104,000 to $152,000, with most of the money coming from his government salary. He made charitable contributions that varied from year to year from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Answering questions from reporters, Bustamante called himself an "average guy trying to an above-average job."

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