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Cruz Bustamante

Appearing upbeat, the lieutenant governor urges supporters to repel the GOP's effort.

October 07, 2003|Scott Martelle and Lee Romney | Times Staff Writers

SAN FRANCISCO — Desperately trying to overtake Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante hit the streets Monday in politically sympathetic neighborhoods in East Los Angeles and the Bay Area urging supporters to vote.

At each stop Bustamante urged votes of no on the recall and yes on Bustamante, and repeated his main theme of the last few days: that a Schwarzenegger victory would bring Pete Wilson back to the governor's office.

"I really do have deep concerns about his regaining some kind of authority over government," Bustamante said.

However, should Schwarzenegger be installed as governor, Bustamante said he would seek to work with the new administration, provided he believes it is sincere in trying to address the state's problems.

"He's got to come up with real ideas that make sense," Bustamante said. "If anybody does that I'm more than willing to work with them. If not, then they're going to find me a very strong opponent."

Appearing upbeat and optimistic, Bustamante turned aside questions suggesting his campaign had been foundering as recently as a week ago, and urged supporters to repel what he and other Democrats have painted as a Republican effort to steal an election.

"We are tired but very happy warriors," Bustamante told reporters after meeting with United Farm Workers precinct walkers in East Los Angeles.

He repeated his attacks on Schwarzenegger over allegations that the actor had groped at least 15 women.

"Are we going to elect someone who has been abusing women in our state?" Bustamante asked, eliciting loud "no's" from the crowd. "If that had been my daughter, it wouldn't have taken an election to resolve it. It would have been up-close and personal, and we would have resolved it real quick."In the afternoon, Bustamante breezed through Oakland's Chinatown on what was billed as the "Polaroid Photo Tour," an event designed to get the candidate's face before Oakland's Chinese American voters.

As Bustamante slung his arm around the shoulders of business owners and a few startled onlookers, a photographer snapped pictures and handed out the instant results.

"You know how sometimes you take a picture with an elected official and never get the picture?" Bustamante said to Albert Wong, the Hong Kong-born owner of New Oakland Pharmacy. "Well, now you get the picture right here!"

Wong and his staff had decorated the store with bright orange "No on the Recall, Yes on Bustamante" signs. "Look at that," Bustamante said with feigned surprise, as a crush of cameras closed in on him. "That's very good!"

For most of the business owners, senior citizens and casual shoppers who milled around the Pacific Renaissance Center, Bustamante's presence in the heart of Chinatown was significant.

Bustamante is the only candidate who has paid a visit to this city's Chinese community, said Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber Foundation.

"Because you came to Oakland, you have won my heart. You have my vote," Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jenny Ong told Bustamante.

Others were not so easily won. Laura Chung, 84, came to meet Bustamante. But the Chinatown resident wanted to air her concerns, not just pose for a picture. As Bustamante nodded at her, she rattled off three priorities in rapid-fire Cantonese. Chung, according to Chan's translation, wants improved public safety, a new senior center and better after-school programs.

Bustamante said little until Chung uttered her final request. He then slammed Schwarzenegger and his Proposition 49 initiative, which passed last fall but has not yet received state dollars.

"This time we'll have an after-school program that gets funded," Bustamante quipped. Later, Bustamante moved to the Castro district, the commercial heart of San Francisco's gay community, where he dropped into stores to chat with shoppers and business owners.

There, Bustamante said he supported gay rights and would have signed AB 205, which gives same-sex couples and heterosexual couples who register with the state as domestic partners many protections now bestowed on spouses. Davis recently signed the measure into law; it faces court challenges.

The election, Bustamante said, comes down to choosing how the state should be run.

"My concern is that there's not going to be somebody sitting in that seat that's going to be advocating on behalf of working families," Bustamante said. "We entered this fight because we really believe there's a difference in the agenda we present versus the agenda that [Schwarzenegger] presents. Nobody wants Pete Wilson to have a third term."

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