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THE STATE | THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

They're Well Behind, but Still Running

40 of the lesser-known gubernatorial hopefuls gather to draw attention to their campaigns.

August 31, 2003|Allison Hoffman | Times Staff Writer

ALAMEDA — As the breakneck race toward the Oct. 7 recall election continues and the media spotlight shines on only a handful of the 135 candidates, 40 of the lesser-known entrants have decided to remind voters that they are still in the running.

Early Saturday, they gathered under a gunmetal sky at the USS Hornet aircraft carrier museum on the old Alameda naval base to establish the Candidates' Forum, a loose coalition designed to draw attention to their neglected campaigns.

Participants said they would meet weekly in cities around the state to give voters and the media a chance to meet the "other" candidates.

"A group of us running for governor decided that it was absolutely necessary for us to come together," said Jon Zellhoefer, a Republican from Mariposa, who helped organize the event. "We have people from all the parties with us."

Most knew each other only as names on a list, and sported handwritten nametags or campaign buttons on their lapels.

Badi Badiozamani, a businessman from San Diego with an earthy tenor voice, sang a short song he had written about the campaign. Daniel Watts, a wiry 21-year-old college student at UC San Diego, gave out little, neon-yellow handbills featuring his picture and Web address. Bill Tsangares, who owns a novelty store in Los Feliz, wore an army-green "Recall Arnold" T-shirt.

They shook hands, exchanged business cards and shared stories from the campaign trail or from auditions for "Who Wants to be Governor?" -- a game show being developed by a company called Mindless Entertainment. It will pit five debating candidates against one another for a $21,000 prize.

They also met for an hour in a closed conference room aboard the carrier to draft a mission statement, issued at a noon news conference by Jack Mortensen, a Folsom painting contractor who calls himself a "renegade Democrat."

"We need to take California government back and put it in the hands of the people, where our forefathers intended it," he said as 39 others listened.

Most of those in attendance seemed hopeful about the prospects for drawing attention to the extraordinary grass-roots response the nomination process attracted in the recall effort.

"It's like car racing -- no one can get to the front by themselves," said Jerry Kunzman, a Silicon Valley independent who is chief executive of the National Auto Sport Assn.

The tightest group at the pier seemed to be the small cadre of candidates who oppose the recall campaign.

"I'm not asking anybody to vote for me. I'm not presenting myself as a credible candidate for governor," said Diana Foss, a San Jose mother who wanted a ballot spot because she was angry about the recall process. "It's a form of legitimate protest to run. But now these 135 candidates have become part of the force of nature that is the recall."

The larger group will meet again next weekend in Los Angeles to begin drafting policy papers. "We may start to split into affinity groups," said Dan Feinstein, a San Francisco graphic designer and Democrat who said he is distantly related to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Not everyone was persuaded that the group could hold together; the candidates are, after all, running a race that only one person can win.

Dick Lane, a lifelong Democrat from Sunnyvale who opposes the recall effort, said he would keep running his own campaign, but would keep up with the forum's activities.

"Next week, the voter pamphlet will go out to 15 million voters," he said, peering at his competitors from under the brim of his white cowboy hat. "And that will start to change things for these people here."

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