Calif. Pols Reach For The Stars

California Gov. Gray Davis and former President Bill Clinton shake hands, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2003 in Los Angeles. Clinton railed against the gubernatorial recall campaign, energizing a state Democratic Party that is increasingly hopeful it can defeat the attempt to oust Gov. Davis. AP

Gov. Gray Davis wasn't the only one seeking a big-name boost in the California recall race.

One day after former President Clinton arrived to help Davis at a church service, Arnold Schwarzenegger was flying to Chicago to appear on the season premiere of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Schwarzenegger was being joined on the show Monday by his wife, TV presenter Maria Shriver. Polls show the action star struggling to win over women, and the spot on Oprah gives him a chance to soften his image by appealing to the show's largely female audience.

For his part, Davis was scheduled to make a second day of appearances with Mr. Clinton, the first of many high-profile Democrats scheduled to campaign against the recall this week.

The governor and Mr. Clinton were the marquee names at the scheduled dedication of the William Jefferson Clinton elementary school in the impoverished L.A. suburb of Compton. The two were later to attend a fundraiser at the home of financier Ron Burkle.

Mr. Clinton spoke passionately against the recall during a Sunday morning service at the city's oldest black congregation, and later on a stroll through a Mexican shopping area.

The former president mixed Scripture with politics in his 40-minute address at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

He repeated his party's theme that the Oct. 7 recall election is part of a right-wing power grab, and said removing Davis could scare future officeholders away from making difficult choices.

"Gray Davis and I have been friends for a long time, and I don't want this happening to him. But this is way bigger than him. It's you I'm worried about. It's California I worry about. I don't want you to become a laughing stock, or a carnival, or the beginning of a circus in America where we throw people out for making tough decisions," Mr. Clinton said.

After a pause, he said: "Don't do this. Don't do this." The congregation erupted in applause.

Davis was scheduled to campaign this week with other prominent Democratic figures, including former Vice President Al Gore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates.

Davis' appearance with the former president came a day after state Democrats held an emergency meeting to address their campaign strategy, re-emphasizing their opposition to the recall while endorsing Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante if voters remove Davis on the ballot's first question.

At a Democratic event in Iowa over the weekend, Mr. Clinton told CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith that while he supports Davis he would not urge Bustamante to back off his campaign.

"I don't think Bustamante is hurting Davis at all. He's the only person on the recall ballot elected in a regular election, I don't have a problem with him running," Mr. Clinton said.

But, he added, "I think the best thing for California by far would be to beat the recall and try to avoid hurting the state of California."

Republicans, meanwhile, were struggling to unite behind a common message and a single candidate.

Schwarzenegger, the leading GOP candidate, appealed to Republicans to rally behind him during the state party convention Saturday in Los Angeles. His chief Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock, refused to drop out.

The struggle is important because many Republicans feel the two candidates will split the GOP vote, handing the governorship to Bustamante if voters oust Davis.

Schwarzenegger did not address the issue Sunday when he spoke in Orange County to a statewide firefighters' association. Instead, he repeated a campaign theme that the state is on the wrong course and that he can set it straight with stronger leadership.

With the help of Mr. Clinton and other Democratic luminaries, Davis is trying to show he is working to address the issues that prompted the recall. He signed an overdue budget that reduced the state's multibillion-dollar deficit, and has convened town hall meetings to show he is in touch with Californians' concerns.

Davis and Mr. Clinton were joined Sunday by other prominent Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

As they arrived at the head of the church, the congregation rose and erupted in cheers.

Davis spoke first, saying "powerful forces" in Washington, D.C., were trying to divide the country along racial and ethnic lines.

He then introduced Mr. Clinton, calling him a true friend.

"Some days, I wake up and wish he were still president," Davis said to loud applause. "He will always be the president for us."
  • Dan Collins

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