By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Nowhere but California, some would say, can an election feature Arnold Schwarzenegger as the front-runner in a race that features Larry Flynt, Gary Coleman and Michael Jackson-no, not that Michael Jackson.
Late-night talk show jabs and political flame-throwing aside, the effort to recall California Gov. Gray Davis and replace him with one of 135 candidates is a political effort of historic proportions: voters have recalled their governor only once in the nation’s history.
“It’s difficult to recall an elected official,” said Dr. Neal Coates, assistant professor of political science.
The recall was expected to be successful, although results were not available as of press time. The most recent polls showed Davis being recalled by double-digit margins.
If Davis was recalled, determining who succeeds him could prove difficult, with absentee ballots still in the mail and millions of votes for hundreds of candidates to sort through. Among the votes will be those cast by students-more attend the university from California than any other state outside Texas.
Megan May, junior English and history major from Anaheim Hills, Calif., was among those who voted absentee for a new governor. She said the Davis recall is not in question.
“He’ll get recalled,” she said. “That’s not the issue. We all know he’ll be recalled.”
The closer race, which likely won’t be decided for at least another week, is who will replace Davis if he is recalled. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, led Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat in every poll heading into Tuesday’s voting, but recent allegations of sexual misconduct published in the Los Angeles Times have made some question those leads’ stability.
Coates said the allegations would cost Schwarzenegger only “2 to 3 percent.”
“It’s not because they’re all allegations,” he said. Some of them are apparently true, as he admitted when he apologized for ‘behaving badly.’ I still think he’s going to win the election, though.”
May said she voted for Schwarzenegger before the allegations surfaced, but that she wouldn’t change her vote.
“I’m voting for them on how do they stand on the issues,” she said. “I still think he’ll do the best job in office.”
Many conservatives, however, disagree, flocking instead to state senator Tom McClintock, who could split the Republican vote and cost Schwarzenegger the victory.
Although capturing attention nationwide, gobbling up airspace and headlines Tuesday, several California natives said they didn’t know enough to vote or didn’t know enough to comment on the situation.
“I haven’t been following it,” said Kristin Alvarado, junior psychology major from Morgan Hills, Calif., adding that a busy schedule had kept her from paying close enough attention. “I do care, but I don’t know anything about it.”
The recall election long has been portrayed by its opponents as a circus, with pornographer Flynt, child star Coleman and adult film star “Mary Carey” all running. College student Daniel Watts, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and satellite project manager Jackson also are running.
In the petition circulated to gather enough signatures to force the election, recall supporters criticized Davis for “gross mismanagement of California finances by overspending taxpayers money, threatening public safety by cutting funds to local governments, failing to account for the enormous cost of the energy fiasco, and failing in general to deal with the state’s major problems until they get to the crisis stage.”
Davis in turn accused state Republicans of “trying another trick” to defeat him after Davis won re-election in January. Nationally, Democrats have used the California recall and Texas redistricting controversy to accuse Republicans of trying to usurp the will of the people, a premise Coates said he rejects.
“It’s a smoke screen argument,” Coates said, noting that the ability to recall a governor only exists in half the states and is difficult to achieve. “It’s very unlikely enough signatures will be gathered in any state. Even in Texas, it would take six or seven special sessions [on redistricting] for people to start using the ‘I’ word, impeachment.”