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THE STATE

Democrats Squabble, GOP Field Narrows

In a week of fast-moving developments, Bustamante gripes about Davis' 'minions,' but the governor later leans toward backing the state's No. 2 leader. Simon vows not to bow out, then does. A judge gives the election a go-ahead.

August 24, 2003

Sunday

* Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante charges Gov. Gray Davis with undermining his campaign.

"If he worked with me a little bit more, I think we could make sure ... that the Democratic Party kept ahold of this position," Bustamante says on "Meet the Press." "If some of the governor's minions would stop trying to undercut my efforts ... we have the possibility of having a win-win position on the ballot."

Bustamante campaign manager Richard Ross says potential "significant donors" have been dissuaded by the Davis campaign from giving money. A spokesman for the Davis campaign says the charge is "just not true."

* Bill Simon Jr., the GOP candidate for governor last year, launches an advertising campaign criticizing fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger over the comment of his advisor Warren E. Buffett who told the Wall Street Journal that the state's property taxes are too low.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger's team wants to triple our property taxes," Simon says in the ad. "Which just goes to show you: Don't send a liberal to do a tax fighter's job."

The actor's campaign dismisses the ad as a distortion. "You'd think Bill Simon would know better than anyone else that it's not kind to distort people's position in a campaign ad, since that's what Gray Davis did to him last year," spokesman Rob Stutzman says.

*

Monday

* Bustamante gains ground in his campaign as the Legislature's Latino caucus and a union representing state workers endorse him.

Sen. Barbara Boxer adds more encouragement for Bustamante, indicating she will be "very involved" in the lieutenant governor's "No on the Recall, Yes on Bustamante" campaign.

* Struggling to maintain a unified front among Democratic mainstays, Davis prepares for an address Tuesday to confront the roots of his unpopularity and defend his performance as governor.

* Schwarzenegger readies a 60-second television spot. A strategist says the campaign will buy more than $1 million in broadcast time, enough to ensure that the average California TV viewer sees the commercial several times.

* A federal judge in San Jose delays until Wednesday his ruling on whether to postpone the recall election until March. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is seeking to block the use of punch-card voting machines in Los Angeles and other urban counties. The machines are scheduled to be replaced by next year's statewide primary.

* Simon reacts to suggestions that he drop out of the race, saying, instead, that Schwarzenegger, the GOP front-runner, should "step out from behind the curtain" and state his views on the issues.

Asked on ABC radio if the Republican Party should unite behind one candidate, Simon rises in irritation:

"We don't know where Mr. Schwarzenegger stands. We haven't heard a word out of Mr. Schwarzenegger. We don't know -- no, let me finish -- we don't know where Arianna Huffington stands. For all we know, she's a Democrat. We don't know where Peter Ueberroth stands. You know, he's probably a Democrat. So when you say the Democrats have one candidate, I would disagree with you. I actually think the Democrats have a couple of candidates."

*

Tuesday

* In a live televised speech, Davis attacks the recall as a "right-wing power grab" that would do "lasting damage to our state, our environment and the very fabric of our democracy."

He concedes that he has made mistakes -- being too slow to respond to the energy crisis and not tough enough in controlling state spending when the treasury was flush. But he also blames other causes for the state's problems, including a national recession, greedy energy companies and uncompromising Republican legislators.

In the speech, Davis also points to some things that have gone well under his leadership. He cites rising public school test scores and his record of cleaning up air and water and protecting the Pacific Coast.

Opponents dismiss the attempt to cast himself as a victim. "The Republicans did not fix the polls that showed he was at 22% approval," Green Party candidate Peter Camejo says.

* Bustamante proposes an economic plan that would rely on an $8-billion tax increase.

The lieutenant governor says he would raise taxes on business and the wealthy and reduce vehicle license fees.

Calling his plan "Tough Love for California," he proposes to increase taxes on the income of the state's top earners and on commercial property, requiring a constitutional change to Proposition 13. His plan would also add $1.50 per pack to the cigarette tax and 25 cents per gallon to alcohol taxes.

With higher tax increases than the original budget proposed by Davis in January, the proposal has little chance of passing the Legislature, analysts say.

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