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O.C. Republican Donors Pledge Funds for Recall

Lincoln Club approves a $100,000 gift to help put bid to remove Gov. Davis on the November ballot.

May 17, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

The Lincoln Club of Orange County threw added heft behind a struggling effort to ask voters in November to recall Gov. Gray Davis, approving a $100,000 donation Friday and promising an additional $150,000 from its members.

The club includes some of the most prolific Republican donors in California. Its pledge to help the recall signals a growing acceptance for the effort among traditional GOP groups that so far have been skeptical of its success.

Recall organizers must gather about 900,000 signatures by Sept. 2 to place a recall of Davis on the November ballot. If it qualifies, a second question would ask voters to choose a replacement for the Democratic incumbent.

The club's contribution matches that of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who took control of the recall organization this month, renaming it Rescue California.

Campaign experts estimate it would take $2 million to fund a successful recall. The only hope for collecting so many signatures over the summer, they said, would be to employ an army of paid gatherers. Issa has set a fund-raising goal of $1.2 million.

Thirty-one previous attempts to remove California governors have failed.

On Thursday, Issa formed an exploratory committee to run for governor should the recall effort make the ballot. He is hoping to be the lone candidate party officials support.

Michael D. Capaldi, president of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, said the group met recently with Issa, and that the vote Friday to invest its funds was overwhelming. State GOP Chairman Duff Sundheim also attended the meeting.

"It's great to work together with friends on something this important," Capaldi said. "We appreciate Darrell's entrepreneurship and will do everything we can to help make [the recall] a success."

The Orange County money boost didn't ruffle Davis advisor Roger Salazar.

"We've heard a lot of numbers thrown about and very little of it has materialized," he said Friday. "We'll obviously keep an eye on what they're doing. There is very little support outside hard-core, right-wing Republican circles for this recall effort."

With Issa's involvement, three factions now back the effort to recall Davis, who won reelection by a smaller margin than expected in November and has dropped further in the polls as the state's budget shortfall looms.

They include conservative activists such as Sal Russo, manager of Republican Bill Simon's unsuccessful campaign to defeat Davis last fall, and anti-tax crusader Ted Costa.

Issa spokesman Scott Taylor said the Lincoln Club money will help the recall meet an ambitious July 15 deadline for submitting signatures.

Should the question make the ballot, several Democratic -- and GOP officeholders -- are expected to jump in. Taylor and Lincoln Club members said the Republican Party has a better chance of retaking the statehouse in a recall election if it backs a single candidate.

"The party will coalesce around one candidate and I think it'll be Darrell Issa because he's taken a leadership role," Taylor said.

Issa, 49, was traveling in Northern California and couldn't be reached for comment Friday. He is scheduled to address troops in Oceanside today and has two public events scheduled in Orange County.

A multimillionaire who made his fortune selling car alarms, he won election to Congress in 2000.

Two years earlier, he spent $10 million on a bid for the U.S. Senate, losing the Republican primary to Matt Fong.

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