From porn star to T-shirt maker, 150 run for governor

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The Independent US

They came, they filed, they ran for Governor. As the deadline for candidacies in California's bizarre who-wants-to-run-the-state contest came and went this weekend, at least 150 people are competing to have their names on October's ballot as possible replacements for the embattled Governor, Gray Davis.

At the two busiest county registrar's offices, in Los Angeles and Sacramento, the state capital, the last-minute crush was so great candidates were literally falling over each other, and over the microphones set up by the media to quiz them on their intentions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator turned Republican party golden boy, ran smack into Arianna Huffington, the political columnist turned society rabble-rouser, and only narrowly avoided a Hollywood T-shirt maker called William Tsangares, running on a "Recall Arnold" platform and handing out $20 bills to dramatise the perversion of the political process by monied interests.

There was a 100-year-old woman sponsored by a chain of discount stores, a 23-year-old porn star who clearly believes Californians prefer blondes, especially scantily clad ones, and a professional bounty hunter with a predictably corny line about running the unpopular Governor Davis to ground. Among the policy proposals aired before the microphones were an ashtray-exchange programme for smokers, tax-deductible lap dances and a state-sponsored system of conflict resolution based on The Jerry Springer Show.

The candidates were so numerous the authorities could not keep track of them. By yesterday morning, 55 people were deemed to have completed their applications with a further 100, or perhaps 103, still under review. The California Secretary of State has promised to come up with a certified list of candidates on Wednesday.

For all the circus-like qualities of this unprecedented experiment in popular democracy - California has never before tried to recall a governor mid-term - it was relatively easy to discern the seven candidates who actually stand a chance of taking the governor's mansion on 7 October.

Mr Schwarzenegger will be competing against three other prominent Republicans, suggesting his front-runner status may be more questionable than the media has so far assumed, and the Democrats have managed, after an unseemly scramble last week, to throw their weight behind the present lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante. Ms Huffington and a Green Party candidate, Peter Camejo, round out the field.

Mr Davis, who will be subject to a straight up-and-down vote on his future in the first part of the election, spent the weekend trying to look gubernatorial and above the fray, signing legislation on fire safety and making only cautious remarks.

Mr Schwarzenegger's Republican challengers include two conservatives running to his right, a state senator called Tom McClintock and last year's failed challenger to Mr Davis, Bill Simon. But moderate Peter Ueberroth, a former baseball commissioner and organiser of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, could prove his most dangerous opponent.

THE CANDIDATES

Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie actor, former body-builder and apparent endorsee of President Bush.

Cruz Bustamante Democratic lieutenant governor, who could be the first Latino to run the state since its foundation.

Peter Ueberroth Sports world mover and shaker, whose courting of the same moderate conservative electorate as Schwarzenegger implies questions about the Terminator's seriousness.

Arianna Huffington Republican salon hostess turned left-libertarian rabble-rouser.

The Others: Eccentrics, crazies and self-promoters. Larry Flynt, founder of the Hustler porn empire; Angelyne, a model; Gary Coleman, a former sitcom midget; Mary Cary, a porn star; Mathilda Karel, a 100-year-old hospital volunteer; Spak; Gallagher; Edward Kennedy (no relation) and Bob Dole (ditto).

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