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Arnold Egged; Davis Vows A Fight

Arnold Schwarzenegger skipped the initial debate of California's recall election Wednesday and delivered what was billed as his first major campaign speech, getting pelted with an egg as he waded through a crowd at a college campus.

Unfazed when the egg hit his left shoulder, the action hero peeled off his coat and went ahead with a 15-minute speech in which he asserted that he is running for governor to give something back to a state responsible for his success.

"You have such a fantastic life, Arnold, you make millions of dollars to do movies and all those kinds of things, why do you want to do this?" Schwarzenegger asked rhetorically.

"And you know something, because everything that I've gotten — my career, my money, my family — everything that I've gotten and achieved is because of California," he said to cheers at California State University, Long Beach.

Schwarzenegger said he wasn't bothered by the egging. "This guy owes me bacon now," he joked later. "I mean there's no two ways about it because, I mean, you can't just have eggs without bacon. But this is all part of, you know, the free speech."

Schwarzenegger broke no new ground in his speech. He criticized politicians for overspending, vowed to reform workers' compensation, promised to prioritize children's issues and said he would work well with Democrats because he's married to one — Kennedy relative Maria Shriver. The themes were familiar from his comments at past campaign events and on radio talk shows.

His address came hours before the debate that featured five other candidates in the race to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who was given 30 minutes at the outset to make his case. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, did not attend and has agreed to participate in only one debate, on Sept. 24.

"He's going to get beaten up for a while" for skipping the debate, said GOP strategist Allan Hoffenblum. "It's not that he's not going to debate, but he's going to do it at his own time."

Meanwhile, in the first debate of California's recall election, candidates vying to oust Gov. Gray Davis attacked front-runner Cruz Bustamante for accepting Indian casino money and connected Schwarzenegger to an adviser's unpopular remarks on property taxes.

The skirmish came after a relaxed Davis told a separate forum with reporters and voters that the recall effort had been an awakening and that he would fight to keep his job and repair the state's problems.

The debate set the stage for the final month of the campaign and offered the best look thus far at the spectrum of opinions on the major issues in the recall, ranging from the state's budget to illegal immigrants to taxes.

Five candidates participated in the debate: Bustamante, columnist Arianna Huffington, state Sen. Tom McClintock, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and the Green Party's Peter Camejo.

The debate is the first of three scheduled so far in advance of the Oct. 7 vote. Candidates qualified for the debate by receiving at least 4 percent support in either a recent poll or the last statewide vote.

Before the start of the debate, Davis said he had not acted soon enough to deal with the state's energy crisis and pledged to keep in better touch with the people.

"I understand people are angry. I understand that people's lives are not as good as they were two years ago," said Davis, employing a theme he has repeatedly used throughout the recall campaign.

Bustamante, the Democratic lieutenant governor who leads the most recent poll, was criticized for taking advantage of a loophole in campaign finance law that allowed a tribe to pledge $2 million to his financially struggling campaign.

Huffington, an independent, said Bustamante had made a mockery of campaign finance laws, which allowed him to circumvent new contribution limits by accepting the bulk of the money in an old campaign account.

"This is nothing but legalized bribery," Huffington said.

"Tell me how you really feel," Bustamante replied.

He went on to say that he has been a longtime supporter of tribes and was proud of the support he had received.

Huffington and Camejo teamed up to link Schwarzenegger to remarks his billionaire adviser Warren Buffett made that Proposition 13 might need to be reworked. Proposition is the voter-approved initiative that limits property tax hikes.

Schwarzenegger has said he wouldn't touch the law, and has tried to distance himself from Buffett's statements.

Camejo suggested that Schwarzenegger shut Buffett up, but he said he did voters a favor. "I say give him a microphone," Camejo said.

Bustamante also said the popular tax initiative should be retooled for commercial property, but McClintock and Ueberroth — Republicans who were in lockstep on a number of issues — said they would not change the tax formula.

While some of the candidates blamed Davis for the state's budget problems, Bustamante did not, instead jabbing at Schwarzenegger by saying "my option is to distinguish myself from those who are here and the guy who is not."

Even Davis indirectly took swipes at Schwarzenegger, blaming the state's problems on his predecessor, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who is now a key adviser to the actor's campaign.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein also criticized him for not appearing at the debate.

"Here's a movie action hero, and he's going to duck the first debate," she said.

During his brief question-and-answer session, Davis said he would rather have raised taxes on the wealthy than to have increased fees on college students and he repeated claims that the recall was a right-wing effort to rewrite history after Republicans lost the fall election last year.

"It's like the Oakland Raiders saying to Tampa Bay, 'We know you beat us, but we want to play the Super Bowl again,"' Davis said.