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CAMPAIGN

'I Am Warming to This Fight'

August 20, 2003

THANK YOU, MY FRIENDS. Viva California!

... I know California is going through a difficult time and this is a challenging moment for all of us. I come here to take responsibility and set the record straight and to talk about our future.

Let's first talk about energy.

I know many of you feel that I was too slow to act during the energy crisis. I got your message and I accept that criticism. I played the hand I was dealt as best I could.

I inherited the energy deregulation scheme which put all of us at the mercy of the big energy producers. We got no help from the federal government. In fact, when I was fighting Enron and the other energy companies, these same companies were sitting down with Vice President [Dick] Cheney to draft a national energy strategy....

THREE YEARS AGO, I refused to give in to the pressure to raise rates astronomically. Everyone I talked to said, "Raise rates, raise rates, raise rates." I would not do it. And I also couldn't let our homes, our businesses, our schools go dark. So I went to work, bought power, built new plants, encouraged conservation for the good people of this state and encouraged the use of clean energy.

My friends, last Friday, 50 million Americans lost power for 29 hours. In California, not a single light has gone out in the last two years.

I'm not looking for praise. We made our share of mistakes.... But, my friends, if any of the Republicans in this recall campaign criticize the way we dealt with the energy crisis, you ask them specifically what they would have done to keep the lights on.

Now let's talk about the budget.

I'M NOT HAPPY with the budget I signed recently.... But it was the best we could do given the position of Republican legislators who would not compromise and who wanted to strip away health-insurance benefits from 400,000 children of working parents rather than increase taxes on the wealthiest Californians....

Yes, I could have been tougher in holding down spending when we had big surpluses. But let's be clear: Our increases on my watch went to education and health care and I make no apology for that....

Now let's talk about the recall.

THIS RECALL IS BIGGER than California. What's happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win....

It started with the impeachment of President Clinton when the Republicans could not beat him in 1996. It continued in Florida where they stopped the vote count, depriving thousands of Americans of the right to vote. This year, they are trying to steal additional congressional districts in Colorado and Texas....

Here in California, the Republicans lost the governor's race last November. Now they're trying to use this recall to seize control of California just before the next presidential election....

IN THE NEXT SEVEN WEEKS, my highest priority will be doing the job you elected me to do. But make no mistake, I am going to fight this recall and the right-wing forces behind it....

I said from the very beginning my three highest priorities are education, education, education. The schools are getting better. Kids are learning more. Teachers are better trained, doing a fabulous job. Parents are more involved. We're on the right path....

I'm also proud to tell you I've signed some of the toughest environmental laws in America over the last five years. Laws that clean up our air, clean up our water and protect our magnificent coastline....

The same is true for reproductive rights, privacy rights and civil rights. We've passed the strongest laws in the nation -- bar none -- on all three subjects....

Now, this is not going to shock you: I may not be the warmest TV personality in politics, but I am warming to this fight. And I will go all over this state, talk to all comers, answer all their questions, and I might have one or two of my own to ask them....

My friends, if you give me your help, I'll do everything in my power over the next 3 1/2 years to represent everyone in this great state -- Democrats, Republicans and Independents -- and to give our children the future they deserve.

Thank you for coming here tonight. God bless you and God bless America.

*

Gov. Gray Davis' speech on Tuesday at UCLA was transcribed by a Times staff writer.

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