Baltimore Sun

Calif. official warns recall vote could cost $66 million

Calif. official warns recall vote could cost $66 million

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California's top election official said yesterday that the recall election is expected to cost about $66 million - the high end of previous estimates - and warned that there will be missteps along the way to a final certification of the outcome, which may be as late as Nov. 15.

"Let me be candid: There are going to be problems," said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, noting that county election officials generally need four to six months to prepare for an election, far more than the two months remaining. "You play with the cards you're dealt."

Shelley also said he believed turnout would be higher than anticipated for the statewide special election Oct. 7 in which voters will decide whether Gov. Gray Davis should keep his job and who should replace him if he wins less than 50 percent of the vote.

Yesterday, with 56 days to go before the vote, there were these developments:

More Democratic leaders moved toward a two-part strategy, urging a no vote on the recall while supporting Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as the best backup candidate. Davis and his wife, Sharon, made campaign appearances emphasizing his work on behalf of Californians. Bustamante released four years of his tax returns.

Prominent Republicans in the race took shots at one another in campaign appearances and interviews and questioned where fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger stands on issues facing the state. Schwarzenegger appeared in New York City at an event touting after-school programs, refusing to answer reporters' questions about his run for the governorship.

Shelley conducted a lottery in Sacramento to determine the order in which candidates' names will appear on the ballot. Names beginning with R will top the ballot in the 1st Assembly District, and ballot order will rotate through the alphabet in other districts.

As of yesterday, 96 candidates had qualified to appear on the ballot in the state's first recall of a sitting governor, only the second such election nationwide in a century. Shelley's office was still reviewing 95 additional names, but county registrars say that they believe the secretary of state's list includes several invalid names and that the final count will end up closer to 150 than 200.

Of the $66 million cost of the recall, about $11 million will come from the state and the rest from county governments. County election officials said yesterday that the recall vote will require them to spend money that had been set aside for the presidential primary in March.

Costs have escalated because of the large number of candidates qualified for the ballot, officials said. Ventura County officials, for example, revised their estimate of the recall costs from $800,000 to $1 million after the increase in the number of candidates this weekend.

One big-cost item is first-class postage to ensure that ballot pamphlets arrive in 11 million California households on time. Normally, ballot pamphlets are mailed at a lower postal rate that allows slower delivery.

The size of the pamphlet also will add to the bill. Each candidate will be entitled to make a 250-word statement. With three statements per page, the pamphlet could be more than 50 pages.

As details of running the special election were sorted out, campaigning continued.

Davis appeared yesterday morning at the Museum of Tolerance in West Los Angeles, posing before dozens of cameras. He called Bustamante "a good and decent person." He added that he took Bustamante "at his word" that the lieutenant governor opposes the recall, despite having chosen to run.

In Sacramento, Bustamante released copies of his income tax returns for 1998 through 2002, calling on other candidates to do the same. (Schwarzenegger released two years of income tax filings on Sunday.)

Other Democratic politicians have begun describing Bustamante as "courageous" or "gutsy" for stepping into the race, part of what seems to be an emerging party strategy of praising the lieutenant governor for putting his name forward.

Still, the Democrats are far from unified, and reactions to Bustamante's candidacy run a spectrum from endorsement to hostility.

On the Republican side, some prominent recall candidates took shots at one another in campaign appearances and interviews.

Bill Simon Jr., who ran unsuccessfully against Davis in 2000, said in an interview with Roger Hedgecock, the talk radio host in San Diego, that state Sen. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks, a rival for conservative votes, "is not going to have the resources" to run a competitive race.

Simon called McClintock a good man but said "we have to question, you know, where Tom is going to be in a couple of weeks when he is not on TV and he is not on radio because he doesn't have the resources."

For his part, McClintock, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, called himself the sole conservative with a chance of winning.

How the ballot will look became somewhat clearer yesterday after the secretary of state's office conducted a lottery to determine the lineup of candidates - a tradition required by law.

Officials placed each of 26 letters in the alphabet into separate 35-millimeter film canisters, dropping them into a drum, then pulling them out one by one.

The first letter drawn was R, followed by the other 25 letters in random order.

As a result, candidates whose name starts with R, will appear at or near the top of the ballot in the 1st Assembly District, in far Northern California. The order then rotates through the 80 Assembly districts in the state.

Election officials continued to draw letters until all were pulled, creating in effect a new alphabet to be followed for the ballot. The process is intended to ensure that no candidate gets an unfair advantage - as much as 5 percent of the vote - by appearing at the top of the ballot in every district.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.