Opponents try to oust California Governor

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The Independent US

Opponents of the California Governor, Gray Davis, claim they have enough support to force an election that could oust him from office.

Election officials are verifying up to 1.4 million signatures that opponents of Mr Davis say they have collected from voters who want a ballot in the autumn, just a year after the Democrat was re-elected for a second term. Under state laws, the organisers need 897,158 signatures ­ 12 per cent of the number who voted last year. "An election's going to happen here pretty quick," said Tom Hiltachk, of Rescue California Recall Gray Davis, the group seeking to force the so-called recall election.

If, as seems almost certain, the recall election is forced, voters will be asked two questions: whether to recall the Governor and which candidate they want instead. While the only major-party candidate to have declared so far is Republican Congressman Darrell Issa ­ who is bank-rolling the recall campaign ­ other potential candidates are watching carefully. Arnold Schwarzenegger has made no secret of his desire to be the Republican Governor of California.

Mr Davis is fighting for his political life because of wide-spread anger over California's energy crisis and a budget deficit estimated at $38bn that has led to job cuts. His approval rating stands at 21 per cent, the lowest on record for a California governor.

The incumbent's supporters are preparing to raise millions of dollars for the election and are combing the records of the recall effort's organisers as well as those of potential opponents for material that could be used in a mass of aggressive, pre-election advertising. At the same time, Mr Davis's opponents are vowing to spend as much as $20m to get rid of him.

Strategists in both main parties believe Mr Davis's chances of survival are better if there are no Democratic candidates on the ballot to replace him. At the same time, there are some members of his party, both in California and Washington, who believe he should stand down, thereby saving the state an estimated $30m in election costs.