FRESNO, Calif. - Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante abruptly shifted strategy yesterday, moving away from his previous position that his campaign was simply a fallback position in case Gov. Gray Davis is recalled.
At a rally of 2,500 Bustamante supporters, there was little mention of "No on recall."
On Oct. 7, voters will be asked if Davis should be recalled, and if so, who should replace him.
"You didn't hear it over the roar of the crowd, but at the end of the speech, I said, 'No on recall, yes on Bustamante,'" the Democratic lieutenant governor said.
But it was one of the few times the "no on recall" part of the equation was mentioned.
Bustamante also announced that he would transfer $3.8 million received from Indian tribes to a committee established to fight Proposition 54, the Oct. 7 ballot initiative that would restrict public agencies from collecting racial data.
The initiative has failed to win support from either Bustamante or the main Republican contender in the recall race, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bustamante told a campaign rally that he would spend every dollar raised above the contribution limits to defeat the "regressive and dangerous initiative" pushed by conservative activist Ward Connerly.
In yesterday's Los Angeles Times, Connerly conceded that "there is no way we can match that," and acknowledged that the measure would probably be defeated.
Opponents say the initiative would undermine civil rights enforcement because it would stop the collection of statistics that could show a pattern of discrimination in anything from schooling to law enforcement.
Connerly has said that statistics can't prove discrimination and that it's time to stop being so race conscious.
Schwarzenegger, speaking to Spanish language station KUVS-TV in Sacramento, said he believes it is necessary to collect racial data for use in such fields as health and education.
"If you take that out, it will be disastrous," he said.
The lieutenant governor, the only well-known Democrat among the 135 replacement candidates, has been criticized by Republicans and even the state Democratic Party chairman for accepting millions of dollars from unions and from tribes with lucrative casinos by taking advantage of a loophole in the state's campaign financing rules.
He skirted the $21,200 individual contribution limit approved by voters in 2000 by accepting multimillion-dollar donations to his 2002 campaign committee for lieutenant governor.
Because that committee was created before California's new campaign finance law took effect, it is not subject to the contribution caps imposed on newer campaign accounts. The money was then transferred into his recall committee account.
Though the action may be legal, critics say it's wrong.
Republican state Sen. Ross Johnson filed a lawsuit asking a judge to forbid the lieutenant governor from collecting donations that exceed the limit.
Even state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said it "doesn't pass the smell test." It's a legal loophole, Torres said, but "do I think he should've used it? Probably not."
Also yesterday, Davis acknowledged that he said, "You shouldn't be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state," but said the comment was made in jest.
The Sacramento Bee reported that Davis made the comment to a voter at a union rally Saturday, apparently in reference to Schwarzenegger, who speaks with a heavy Austrian accent.
"I was just joking around with someone in the crowd," Davis said after riding in a Mexican Independence Day parade in east Los Angeles.
But he added that "it's not a joke" that Schwarzenegger voted for Proposition 187, a measure denying some social services to illegal immigrants, and that he would vote to repeal the bill allowing illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses. The measure was largely invalidated in the courts.
Schwarzenegger, campaigning in a heavily Hispanic Los Angeles suburb, said his pronunciation of "California" was just one of the words Davis didn't like to hear.
"He doesn't like 'lost jobs,' he doesn't like that word," Schwarzenegger said after participating in an awards ceremony for Inner City Games, a youth foundation he supports.
"He doesn't like 'blackouts,'" Schwarzengger said. "He doesn't like 'energy crisis.' And he definitely doesn't like 'recall.'"
At the Mexican Independence Day parade in Los Angeles, Davis was cheered by onlookers - many carrying "no recall" signs - as he rode along the parade route in a double-decker bus.
Lt. governor changes course in Calif.
Bustamante softens 'no on recall' part of his campaign to replace Davis
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