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THE RECALL CAMPAIGN

Bustamante Casts Vote for Oct. 7 Polling

Democratic candidate cites 'recall fatigue' in saying election should proceed. He picks up the backing of a gay and lesbian lobbying group.

September 19, 2003|Matea Gold and Daryl Kelley | Times Staff Writers

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante suggested Thursday that California would be better off if the courts allowed the recall election to proceed Oct. 7, saying that Californians were beginning to get "recall fatigue."

"I think people are ready to do this election and get this recall issue over with and move on," Bustamante said during a morning news conference in West Hollywood, where he picked up the endorsement of a gay and lesbian lobbying group.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have already voted," he added. "We've already spent $30 [million] to $50 million. There are serious legal issues that have to be resolved. I hope that they can be resolved and that we can move forward and get this thing done."

Bustamante's stance is a departure from the position of Gov. Gray Davis and other Democratic officials, who have praised a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week for delaying the recall election as a move to protect voter rights. The full court has been asked to reconsider the issue next week.

Meanwhile, the lieutenant governor received the backing of Equality California, a gay and lesbian advocacy group that claims about 40,000 members statewide.

Geoffrey Kors, the organization's executive director, said Bustamante has long advocated extending rights to gays and lesbians. While the lieutenant governor does not support gay marriage, he does back domestic partnership benefits, Kors said.

"One thing we've learned in working with the lieutenant governor over the last five years is his willingness to talk with us, to work with us on these issues," Kors said.

State Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, a Republican candidate to replace Davis, is staunchly against those benefits, Kors said.

Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has voiced support for gay rights in the past, did not respond to the group's questionnaire. "We have no idea where he stands, and that's a real concern," Kors said.

The group plans to send out at least 100,000 mailers urging its members to vote against the recall and for Bustamante.

At the same time, Bustamante renewed his criticism of two leading Republican candidates for vowing to repeal a new law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, calling them anti-immigrant.

Republicans "don't want our community to drive," he told a Spanish-language television reporter. "Why? They are doing the work that no one else wants to do. They're paying taxes. They're working hard, and they're not breaking the law.... It's very clear what is happening: The Republicans are against the immigrant."

In an interview, Bustamante added that Republicans have revived the anti-immigrant stance used in pushing Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative that would have denied public services to illegal immigrants if courts had not blocked its implementation.

"The Republican Party has embarked on a very cynical brand of wedge-issue politics," he said. "They're doing it again."

Then, after a luncheon fund-raiser in Oxnard, Bustamante spoke at what amounted to a celebration of the Latino heritage shared by him and most of his audience.

Speaking in English and in Spanish, the grandson of Mexican immigrants said that culture stood for hard work, love of family and a belief in the future. He noted that he had picked crops in the San Joaquin Valley as a teenager.

"For those people who are still concerned by the fact that I'm Latino, let me answer it this way: I love my culture -- I love everything about it," he told a cheering crowd of about 175 at Oxnard's Plaza Park. "I love the language. I love the music. I love the food. Look at me -- I really love the food.

"But I'm the lieutenant governor for the entire state of California, and if I get a chance to become governor I will represent everyone ... in every single community."

Later, he squatted to tell 7-year-old Frank Molina, whose grandmother had brought him to see the politician, "You can do anything you want. Look at me. I'm short and losing my hair, and I became lieutenant governor."

Event organizer Morey Navarro, a former city planning commissioner and owner of an auto-towing firm, said a grass-roots group brought Bustamante to town as a role model for local children.

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