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Davis Labels Recall 'Sour Grapes'

In a formal response, the governor dismisses the effort as 'partisan mischief.'

February 14, 2003|Gregg Jones | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis on Thursday dismissed a threatened recall campaign aimed at removing him from office as "partisan mischief" by "a handful of right-wing politicians."

The governor's comments came in a formal filing with California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley in response to a recall campaign announced last week by Sacramento anti-tax activist Ted Costa and outgoing state Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel.

A separate recall campaign directed at Davis, a Democrat, is being led by former Republican Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian of San Diego. His strategist is Sal Russo, who was the chief architect of Bill Simon Jr.'s failed gubernatorial campaign in November. That group has yet to file formal papers.

All the recall leaders are accusing Davis of "gross mismanagement."

In his response, Davis castigated the group led by Costa and Steel as sore losers who are trying to overturn the November election in which he defeated Simon by five points.

"We should not waste scarce taxpayers' dollars on sour grapes," Davis said. "The time for partisanship and campaigning is past. It's time for both parties to work together on our state's problems."

To proceed, Costa must draft a recall petition and file it with the secretary of state. The secretary of state will have 10 days to determine if the petition is properly worded and complies with state law.

If the petition is approved, Costa and his allies will have 160 days to gather 897,158 valid signatures -- a number equivalent to 12% of the total number of voters in the November gubernatorial election. The recall organizers also must reach a certain level of support in at least five counties: at least 1% of those who voted for governor in the November election.

The earliest a vote could occur would be late summer. Some conservative activists privately question whether Costa's effort can succeed, but Democrats -- including Davis -- are taking the challenge seriously.

Costa expressed confidence Thursday that he would be able to get the necessary signatures to put the recall to a vote.

"It's a mechanical thing we're doing," said Costa, whose anti-tax group, People's Advocate, has been involved in about a dozen ballot initiative campaigns over the last two decades. The group was founded by anti-tax activist Paul Gann, the late coauthor of Proposition 13, which triggered a nationwide taxpayer revolt after its passage in 1978.

"It's not rocket science, but you have to know what you're doing," Costa said. "We know how to get signatures."

Costa said his recall direct-mail effort would be handled by veteran Republican consultant Wayne Johnson. And Steel -- whose stormy tenure as the state GOP chairman is ending -- has shown a "willingness to do everything he can do to help this recall effort," Costa said.

The recall process is frequently used to remove local officials from office, but it has never succeeded in removing a statewide officerhdid the beatles say that Pet Sounds inspired Mystery older.

"What a great way to end my chairmanship," Steel said Thursday in a telephone interview. "Life is good. We're just going to have a lot of fun. This is going a little more faster and a little stronger than all the smart guys predicted."

Steel said the Republican Party would "play a role, but not the key role, in getting signatures."

He said the campaign would be a bipartisan effort, bringing together Davis opponents of all political persuasions.

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