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Schwarzenegger Rejects Davis Debate

September 28, 2003|From Associated Press

California Gov. Gray Davis challenged Arnold Schwarzenegger to a debate "right here, right now," accusing the actor Friday of distorting his record. The Schwarzenegger campaign declined.

Davis' challenge was the most direct confrontation that the governor has made during the campaign leading up to the Oct. 7 recall election and came as his campaign planned to air his first television ad attacking Schwarzenegger.

"Mr. Schwarzenegger is wrong. He is mischaracterizing the facts and running down this great state," Davis said at a West Hollywood rally aimed at building support among women.

He accused Schwarzenegger of misrepresenting the governor's record on such issues as taxes, health care and jobs, and of misstating facts about California's problems.

Schwarzenegger will refuse the challenge, campaign spokesman Sean Walsh said.

"Our campaign has to convince the public that of the individuals who will replace Gray Davis, we have the vision, we have the discipline and we have the popular will to change California," Walsh said. "So, sorry, Gray, you are on your own, pal."

Since Wednesday's debate featuring the five leading candidates seeking Davis' job, the governor has begun to campaign hard against Schwarzenegger, increasingly shaping the un- precedented recall election, with 135 candidates, into a traditional choice between two candidates.

Schwarzenegger continued to build on the momentum of Republican support that followed his sole debate performance, winning the backing Friday of U.S. Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista), who bankrolled the recall effort.

Issa's announcement appeared to have little effect on state Sen. Tom McClintock, the only other prominent Republican still in the race.

Republican leaders fear that Schwarzenegger and McClintock could split the GOP vote, throwing the election to Democrat Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante if Davis is recalled.

McClintock showed no sign of backing out Friday as he unveiled a new campaign ad. "I would not be in this race if I did not believe I could win," he said.

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