SACRAMENTO, Calif. - While Democrats urged one of their own to drop out of the recall election yesterday, the list of Republican contenders grew as former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth announced his candidacy a day before the filing deadline.
Ueberroth, who successfully organized the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, said that although he is a registered Republican, he will run an independent campaign. He pledged to serve only the remainder of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' term.
"Between now and Oct. 7, California voters will be subjected to the same bitter partisanship that too often interferes with getting California to work again," Ueberroth, 65, said in a statement. "Once the campaign has ended, I believe that I will be the best qualified person to get the tough job done."
Other Republicans on what promises to be a crowded election ballot include actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, businessman Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock.
Two high-level Democrats, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, also announced this week that they would run. But some in the party, fearful that a split vote could cost the Democrats the governor's office, were trying to urge one of the candidates to pull out.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, said he had spoken with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson about meeting with the candidates and anointing one as the party's choice in lieu of a primary election.
Garamendi said yesterday he was pressured by three fellow Democrats to step aside within 24 hours of announcing his candidacy. "My comment to them is, 'No, I'm not getting out,'" Garamendi said. "I'm in this race until Oct. 7."
Sherman said he spoke with Garamendi yesterday morning. Asked if he tried to dissuade him, he said, "Not really."
"If either one of them wants to cancel their registration by Saturday, I'll take them out to the fanciest dinner in California," Sherman said of Bustamante and Garamendi.
As Bustamante made his candidacy official yesterday by filing papers with the secretary of state's office, he said he hadn't been approached to step aside. "No, in fact, I've been getting a tremendous amount of calls in support saying, 'Thank you for putting your name in,'" he said.
In entering the race this week, Garamendi and Bustamante broke earlier pledges not to run and dashed Davis' hopes that no top Democrat would challenge him. The state's most popular Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, announced Wednesday that she would not run.
Leading Democrats had long resisted the idea of having a Democratic alternative to Davis in the recall election, saying it would hurt the incumbent's chances. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe denied yesterday that Democrats are breaking ranks, and said their efforts are focused on keeping Davis in office.
Speaking in Tampa, Fla., McAuliffe said Bustamante assured him that his candidacy is a "safety valve" and that Bustamante's first interest is in defeating the ballot question that would oust Davis.
Recall opponents are also fighting the election in court but have only losses to show for it. Yesterday, a judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction halting the election over allegations that petition signatures had been gathered improperly.
Schwarzenegger's first full day on the campaign circuit began at 2:30 a.m. yesterday, when he awoke to make the rounds on the national morning news show circuit. He continued to hammer away at Davis and promised a business-friendly atmosphere that would help resolve the state's fiscal problems but offered few specifics.
Asked on Good Morning America why he had announced his candidacy on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Schwarzenegger said it was the latest in a life of unconventional decisions.
"I do things always in an odd way, in a very unusual way," he said. "I mean, this is my life. I mean, imagine someone becoming a bodybuilder in a country where ski racing and soccer is the hottest sport."
Garamendi, undaunted by the prospect of leaders asking him to step aside, launched his first campaign stop at a Los Angeles farmer's market. He criticized the political neophyte Schwarzenegger, who has said he would clean up Sacramento, the capital. "He doesn't even know where Sacramento is, let alone where the broom is to get it done," Garamendi said.