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Week Finds the Race Getting Tighter

The leading candidates mixed campaign appearances with frantic fund-raising efforts. One Republican contender, Peter V. Ueberroth, dropped out, while some party members urged state Sen. Tom McClintock to follow suit.

September 14, 2003


* Arnold Schwarzenegger held his first question-and-answer forum with voters and promised to go "up and down the state" to hold similar meetings -- part of a shift in tactics that has had him addressing issues and the electorate more directly. The audience, however, was carefully selected and the questioners picked in advance.

At Chapman University in Orange, Schwarzenegger delved into more specifics and appeared to be striving to appeal to conservatives. He made his strongest statements to date against a bill recently signed by Gov. Gray Davis that will allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. "We are leaving ourselves wide open to terrorism," Schwarzenegger told the forum. "Anyone can go get a driver's license without a criminal background check."

* After a three-week investigation, officials at the Simon Wiesenthal Center said they had found no evidence linking Schwarzenegger's father to Nazi war crimes. Gustav Schwarzenegger was a Nazi Party member who served with the Sturmabteilungen (SA) paramilitary unit, known as storm troopers, according to recently released documents. But records in Austria, Germany and the United States do not implicate the elder Schwarzenegger or his SA unit 521 in wartime atrocities, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center.

* In her first campaign swing, Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger's wife, appeared at a voter-registration booth at a suburban Wal-Mart outside Sacramento. As Shriver chatted briefly with people filling out voter-registration forms outside the garden center of the Natomas Wal-Mart, booming chants of "No recall!" from about 100 union members drowned out the cries of "Ar-nold!" from a much smaller band of Schwarzenegger supporters, and Shriver cut her appearance short. Shriver appeared to take the mixed reception in stride. "I think it's great when people exercise their voice, whatever it is," Shriver told reporters, her words barely audible above the shouts. "I hope that the 13 million people that sat out the last election will come out. That's a great thing for California, no matter who wins. I don't view it as anti-Arnold. I don't take that personally at all."

* Eager to portray Davis as a negative campaigner, Schwarzenegger's campaign demanded an apology from the governor for joking about the actor's Austrian accent. The Sacramento Bee reported that, at a recent union rally, while shaking hands with people in the crowd, Davis had told a voter, "You shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state."


* Former sports czar Peter V. Ueberroth ended his bid to become California's next governor. Although he is a Republican, Ueberroth was running as a centrist with bipartisan appeal, and the top three remaining candidates moved quickly to claim his supporters. Given Ueberroth's relatively low standing in the polls, "I wouldn't guess that it will have a huge impact, frankly," said Walter Stone, chairman of the UC Davis political science department. While it was unclear where Ueberroth's supporters might go, "there just aren't enough of them to make a huge difference."

Data from the Field Poll suggested that Ueberroth's supporters would split almost evenly among Bustamante, Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks). What could be more significant is whom Ueberroth endorses. He declined Tuesday to back any of his competitors, saying he intended to meet with the main contenders to find out who would best push his agenda to resolve the state's budget crisis through job creation.

* Bustamante, Arianna Huffington and Peter Camejo took part in a recall debate in Los Angeles.

Though he skipped the forum, Davis came in for sustained attacks during the 90-minute debate in downtown Los Angeles, where the candidates sent both direct and nuanced messages to voters. Camejo, the Green Party candidate, repeatedly praised Bustamante, defending him at one point on his use of campaign donations from Indian tribes -- an issue that has become a liability for Bustamante's campaign.

"I do believe that there is a difference between Cruz Bustamante and Gov. Davis," Camejo said. "I think this man is much more open. It is possible to try to work with him." Bustamante, for his part, used none of his time to persuade voters to keep Davis on the job. Bustamante has said that he opposes the recall and is running as a Democratic alternative in case Davis is ousted. In recent days, however, he has de-emphasized the "no on the recall" part of his message.

* The state Senate, with backing from several Democrats, passed a motion calling on the governor to apologize for his jibe at Schwarzenegger's accent.

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